Editorial: Housing needs require local input

Recent presentations were made by the City of Cornwall’s Cornwall SDG Human Services Department regarding possible new locations for community housing in SDG Counties – including in South Dundas. Representatives from the city have earmarked municipally-owned land in many places, including Iroquois, for short, medium, and long-term new housing. Some of the locations have raised eyebrows.

Cornwall is responsible for this file through the Shared Services Agreement with the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry. Recently, SDG signed on to the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus pledge to build 7,000 new affordable housing units in the next seven years – an ambitious goal. City officials – when at South Dundas council – identified two pieces of South Dundas-owned property: about five acres on the south side of County Road 2, west of Broken Second Road, and a parcel of land between CR2 and Beach Street, directly in front of Seaway District High School. The latter is presently a treed park space and parking lot used by that school’s staff and students.

We do not know what discussions have been held outside of the South Dundas council regarding the availability of the two Iroquois properties identified – if any. In open council, there appeared to be little (if any) opposition to these two properties being earmarked for rental property development. At other councils in SDG, few questions have been raised by elected officials as to what areas city officials have decided should be developed – that is not right.

We all know that we are in a housing crisis. Rental property prices have doubled in the past five years – incomes and the ability to pay have not. Recent statistics used by the Human Services department report over 400 families on the wait list for affordable housing. In any crisis, creative solutions are needed. Our municipalities need to be more actively and publicly involved in those creative solutions. While Cornwall looks after housing through Shared Services, should it not be our municipalities taking that leading role in deciding what properties, and where, should be considered? When using public money and earmarking publicly-owned land for those solutions, council requires absolute transparency.

If councils and staff are more public about the process, maybe a creative solution could include private contributions of land. Just as South Nation Conservation and SDG Counties receive donations for forestry, perhaps there is someone who would consider donating property to help this situation – instead of using prime and valuable land.

There are many municipally-owned properties in South Dundas, all with the right combination of municipal services and appropriately sized, that can support much-needed housing initiatives. The more public and transparent that municipal officials are about the process, the more opportunities there will be to find viable and creative solutions that everyone can be a part of. Local input matters greatly.

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