Housing is the number one issue, say local politicians at townhall meeting.
BARRY’S BAY, September 21: Canada’s housing crisis is hitting small towns hard, and although they don’t have the resources of big cities, small municipalities like Madawaska Valley Township can and must work with local people to solve this difficult problem. That was the message heard repeatedly at a townhall meeting organized by the Affordable Housing Alliance of the Ottawa Valley (AHAOV) and attended by 50 people, including a dozen municipal candidates, at the Royal Canadian Legion here. Above: The head table at the MV Township townhall included Glenn Allen, KHR Mayor Janice Tiedge, Ish Theilheimer, Cameron Montgomery, NAW Township Councillor Maria Robinson, Maureen McMillan, and Helen Benn. Photo submitted.
“We have jobs but no starter homes available,” said MV Councillor Mark Willmer, who is running for Mayor. “All levels of government need to work on this. It starts at home.” He suggested investigating if development charges could be used to support affordable housing.
His comments were echoed by many other municipal officers and candidates. MV municipal Council candidate Mary Blank said, “As I go door to door, a lot of people are saying you’ve got to create something. Housing is the number one issue.”
Several people at the meeting talked about the “precarious position” that many tenants are in. “We never know when we’re going to be homeless. It’s scary out there,” said Janet Westall of Petawawa, whose rental housing is in poor condition. Her landlord, she says, wants to get her and her husband, Charlie, out in order to raise the rent or sell.
“We need to get involved. I have a big mouth. Use me. My dream is to live in a big house with a bunch of senior citizens and take care of them.”
Many heart-wrenching stories were heard about ordinary people who have unexpectedly found themselves living in cars, trailers and motels. Cameron Montgomery, Special Projects Officer with NAW Township and an AHAOV steering committee members, said, “The stress of thinking about becoming homeless in their last years of life,” is ruining the quality of life for many seniors. She told of one she knows whose rental home in Pembroke was sold during the pandemic, “And she could not find a house to rent or buy, all she could afford was a 3-season trailer. She, along with many other seniors in this position, spend their days at the local library in the winter, just to stay warm. Before the pandemic, she could not have imagined that her life would turn out this way.”
With municipal elections October 24, much of the evening’s discussion was focused on the municipal role. Rockingham resident Glenn Allen, whose career was in affordable housing in Ottawa, talked about the many things a sympathetic local government can do to help. He listed free, municipally-owned land and zoning flexibility and resisting the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) syndrome as important.
NAW Township Councillor Maria Robinson, another AHAOV committee member, agreed. “We have to get away from the NIMBY mentality. You have to look out for your neighbours. We all need to be part of the solution.”
Surveying their residents for their housing needs and desires is an important step in developing housing and securing financing, several speakers said, and municipalities can take a lead role in this.
“The community needs to come together to demonstrate the need,” said Cameron Montgomery, who is, herself, a professional grant writer. “We need data, in the form of surveys, town hall meeting minutes, steering committee meeting minutes, and Council discussions to build reporting metrics for the municipality to support an application for funding from one of the many funders out there. For a major building project, this data will be essential to get funding.”
MV Township CAO and AHAOV committee member Suzanne Klatt emphasized the need for area municipalities to work together on housing and that they do work cooperatively in many ways, such as Community Safety Well Being Plans.
Several people spoke to the problems caused when ordinary family homes are converted to AIRBNB rental properties. “Full-time AIRBNB properties are completely destroying communities,” Lisa Downling said.
Meeting chair Ish Theilheimer emphasized the need for local committees to form to develop housing. “Municipal councils can help, but it all starts with a few people in the community who want to make something happen.” He pointed to Fairfields in Eganville and Millstream Apartments in Killaloe as examples of affordable housing started by local committees.
At the end of the meeting, a committee was struck for MV Township that includes AHAOV committee members and members of the local community.
AHAOV plans to hold similar meetings in Pembroke (Sept. 27), Killaloe, KHR Township, (Oct. 4), Eganville, BV Township (Oct. 5) and Golden Lake, NAW Township, (Oct. 6).
Theilheimer,I.,AHAOV(2022,Sept.23) Housing is the number one issue, say local politicians at townhall meeting [news release]