Action committees have been formed in five area municipalities as a result of townhall meetings staged in the last two weeks by the Affordable Housing Alliance of the Ottawa Valley (AHAOV). The Townhalls concluded this week with meetings in Killaloe, Eganville and Golden Lake.
At each of the meetings, municipal officers and candidates and local residents turned out to speak of their concerns and to offer help as volunteers. AHAOV will be working with each of the local committees as they assess the situations in their own communities and develop proposals for action.
“It’s really important to have our municipalities and communities working together on this, and it will be viewed very favourably by potential funders,” said North Algona Wilberforce Mayor James Brose at the Thursday night meeting at the Golden Lake Community Hall. “Housing is an issue for many seniors and others in our township and other around us.”
Each meeting began with all the participants introducing themselves and talking about their concerns and experience. Many expressed alarm at the problems local people, especially seniors and younger adults, are having finding housing or keeping the housing they now have.
Marlyn Sauk, of Rankin, volunteers at The Grind in Pembroke, which provides food and warmth for people in need. “Pembroke is the hub of Renfrew County for homelessness,” she said the meeting in Golden Lake, with people from around the County who lose housing gravitating there. “The homeless population is exploding.”
Nora Shay of Golden Lake, for example, spoke of the pressing need for housing she hears regularly in her work as a volunteer with seniors in Eganville. “You can’t imagine how many people we’ve had to find temporary homes for,” she told the meeting she attended.
“At least a couple of days every week, we have people come in who are desperate for housing,” said Bil Smith of the Community Resource Centre and a member of AHAOV’s steering committee at the KHR meeting in Killaloe on Tuesday. More than once, he said, his organization has lost out on hiring good people, “Because they couldn’t find a place to live.”
After these introductions, AHAOV showed a PowerPoint presentation called “An Affordable Housing Cookbook.” Like a cookbook, it offers a few recipes and lists ingredients, showing viewers examples of working solutions from other communities, looking at the how municipalities can help speed and ease the development of affordable housing, and offering some directions for financing.
Ish Theiheimer, who developed the Cookbook with Cameron Montgomery, emphasized the importance of finding “loyal, local capital” to finance new housing. “The experience elsewhere shows that with low-interest financing, affordable housing pays for itself.” He pointed to the experience, in Ottawa, of the non-profit housing corporation CCOC (Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation), which started in the 1970s and now owns more than 1,600 units of affordable housing. “CCOC has a track record of paying off its buildings in fifteen to twenty years and building equity for new housing.”
The presentation concludes with a call to action, asking people to volunteer for local committees.
In each of the five communities – MV Township on September 21, City of Pembroke on September 27, KHR Township on October 4, BV Township on October 5 and NAW Township on October 6 – volunteers came forward and committees were formed. AHAOV will help coordinate and schedule the committees, which are open to new volunteers and will meet after the municipal elections.
Cameron Montgomery, a member of the AHAOV steering committee and Special Projects Coordinator with NAW Township emphasized the importance of working with local municipalities and starting small. She suggests co-ops, home-sharing and other small accomplishments can help pave the way toward bigger things. “Funders want to support successful efforts,” she said. They need to see well-developed plans and lots of partners.” Similar issues and ideas came out at each meeting, including innovative designs, co-op housing, the difficulty of obtaining severances and other official needs, problems with the Landlord-Tenant act, and the lack of new affordable housing in the last two decades since federal and provincial funding dried up.
Theilheimer,I.,Affordable Housing Alliance of the Ottawa Valley(2022,Oct.7)Townhalls launch affordable housing committees in five communities [media release]