Editorial – Local DIY housing solution

Canada has an affordable housing crisis. Purchasing or renting a place to live is increasingly unattainable for more people. The demand for rental housing is high in urban and rural communities alike, including in South Dundas. With few rental properties available, local prices have escalated in the past five years. What is available to rent is either unaffordable for those of modest income means, or is in poor condition. Little rental development is being built.

While urban centres like the City of Cornwall are taking action, little is planned by the rural governments of SDG Counties, and that includes South Dundas. Community and low-income housing in SDG is operated through a shared-services agreement with Cornwall. That agreement does not include building new accommodations.

SDG Council plans to have a committee to address housing, but other than platitudes that has brought forth no concrete action. Innovative and creative solutions are needed. South Dundas can take a leadership role using recent federal and Ontario announcements to create a made-in-South Dundas DIY housing solution.

In March, the province announced changes to publicly-owned land use regulations. Parks and other municipal properties can have community housing built in certain instances, and funding options are available. Last week’s federal budget targets more money into building affordable rental housing, including publicly-owned housing.

South Dundas has an abundance of park land, 25 areas in total. Some of the parks are well-utilized gems, others have large portions – outside of the playground equipment – not used at all. A corner of an under-utilized park would be a great place for a small residential building or even a group of tiny houses. A partnership with local trades programs in the schools could provide an experiential learning process as well.

South Dundas also has over 10 municipal public spaces, many of which were under used before the COVID-19 pandemic. One notable building is the former St. Cecilia Catholic School, half of which is vacant. Converting under-used municipal spaces into affordable rental spaces using provincial regulation changes and federal money is a creative solution which could help address the affordable rental housing needs of South Dundas. As these projects fall under shared services, once built the municipality will not have additional operational responsibilities.

The need for housing is great. Creative thinking using the tools and land we already have can help improve the crisis in our community, and possibly serve as a template for other communities as well.

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