Affordable housing is a top priority for 2023

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The Pontiac is a vast wilderness, cherished for its rich forests, beautiful lakes, community activities, and welcoming people. No wonder many young families have recently moved to the Pontiac in hopes of a more balanced lifestyle surrounded by fresh air and nature. An important part of the attraction to the region is the important work that has been put into infrastructure renewal, but more needs to be done.

With an electric car, you can somewhat comfortably travel throughout the Pontiac without worrying about running out of charge–as long as you know where you’re going. With multiple reliable fast chargers on its territory and supposedly more coming, it is actually in a position to be a leader in rural transportation electrification. That makes the region very attractive to environmentally minded families and professionals alike.

Add to that improved community centres, including the proposed public swimming pool complex and you can see that the Pontiachas some positive things happening.

However, the availability of housing–whether to rent or to buy–is dismal. The MRC seems focused on rebooting the forestry industry in the region but should be equally focused on community-building by investing in new housing and regional resource hubs (think groceries, medical, etcetera) or by lobbying the provincial government to do so. Warden Jane Toller proudly touts the upcoming pay-per-use pool and recreation centre, which will undoubtedly help the health and wellbeing of many of our residents and should be applauded, but more really needs to be done to modernize the Pontiac in order to preserve its character and ecosystems, while making it a viable option for young families looking to settle down in the region–not just those looking to retire.

Affordable, modern, energy-efficient, and safe housing is becoming more and more difficult to find in a region that was already marked by a significant shortage before
the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Data at the “nearby” Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario suggests a baby surge since the beginning of the pandemic. Many of those undoubtedly proud new parents are from the Pontiac. These parents, who already had to travel out-of-region or out-of province for obstetrics care, deserve access to healthcare in their own communities and safe, healthy affordable housing in which to raise their families.

These issues of safe, affordable, and quality housing are ignored at the peril of our communities. Now is the time for the MRC to step up its community planning in order to continue to effectively support the growing population relying on its stewardship.

I’m looking forward to see what 2023 brings.