Building Lanark County Affordable Housing (BLAH)’s series of public information sessions kicked off Monday, March 6, 2023. It was a huge success with standing room only. The Table hosted a Panel Discussion with our municipal leaders: Judy Brown (Perth Mayor), Rob Rainer (Tay Valley Township Reeve), Peter McLaren (Lanark Highlands Reeve), Steven Fournier (Drummond/North Elmsley Reeve), and Kurt Greaves (CAO County of Lanark).
BLAH! has formed to address the housing crisis in Lanark County. A clear sign of the crisis are the 700 people on the waiting list for subsidized housing in our county. Rob Rainer reminded us that: “The idea of housing as a human right is embedded in international law and elected officials have a duty to meet that right.” Judy Brown shared a “radical proposal” that of the 3,200 homes in Perth, 1,500 homes have single occupants and she suggested that students live with seniors who are single occupants in these homes.
Our community members came out in droves with one common goal; to find solutions to this housing crisis. During the Q&A people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives asked pertinent questions and offered interesting insights. Andy Cockburn, President of the Lanark-Leeds Homebuilders Association, offered that he and local builders work together with county officials to alleviate the housing crisis by bringing more affordable and attainable housing to the community. Cockburn also suggested that Algonquin College restart their house-building program as we need more qualified personnel to be trained. This was met with applause and support from the audience.
Melanie Mills, Executive Director of Plan-B, stressed the importance of addressing the status of current homes in disrepair. She questioned why Renovate Lanark accepts some applications and not others. Renovate Lanark provides grants to low-income households to make needed repairs to their homes.
Susan Brandum, Co-Director of Climate Network Lanark, suggested that a subsidy be provided to convert single occupant dwellings into duplexes with an affordable apartment. Kurt Greaves responded by sharing that a $25,000 grant is available to do just that, however there are only 4 being offered per year.
Nelson Rodgers, former Dean of Algonquin College, pointed out that we have experts in our community who could come together to demonstrate how to solve the affordability crisis from both the income side and the cost side.
Judy Brown let us know that she and Chris Hahn, current Dean of Algonquin College, are visiting Pembroke campus and considering the possibility of building a student residence in Perth.
Peter McLaren thanked everyone for coming out stating: “Community groups are the best groups.”
BLAH! will continue to offer public information sessions on the first Monday of each month at The Table, following the community meal. Guest speakers will share their expertise on addressing affordable and sustainable housing. Next month, Monday, April 3, 2023 6:30-8:00pm, Jovette Fournier, Executive Director of CHASEO (Cooperative Housing Association of Eastern Ontario) will share her wealth of knowledge and experience along with her passion for affordable housing. BLAH! is grateful to the Perth and District Community Foundation (PDCF) for providing the financial support for this project.