New alliance aims to put affordable housing on the municipal election agenda

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Following a public meeting held in Killaloe in May, an association was formed to promote and develop affordable housing in the area. The new group’s first task will be to put affordable housing on the agenda of municipal election campaigns this fall.

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A steering committee of 10 people met and developed plans. Its members are the County of Pembroke. Brian Abdallah, Nadir Amlani of Eganville, Helen Benn of Madawaska Valley Township, Madawaska Valley Township General Manager Suzanne Klatt, Maureen MacMillan of Killaloe, North Algona Wilberforce Township Special Projects Officer Cameron Montgomery, North Algona Wilberforce Township Coun. Maria Robinson, Bill Smith of the Community Resource Center (Killaloe), Ish Theilheimer of Golden Lake and Janice Tiedje, Mayor of the Township of Killaloe Hagarty Richards.

In July, they decided to form the Ottawa Valley Affordable Housing Alliance (AHAOV), with the intention of getting involved in communities around Renfrew County. They believe that municipal elections represent an ideal opportunity to educate, promote and obtain support.

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“Affordable housing has become a huge issue in our area,” Theilheimer said. “Local elections give us the opportunity to discuss solutions with candidates and to promote action.”

The Alliance’s mission statement notes that there is “a severe shortage of available housing, for rent or purchase, throughout the region”. Local people, he says, “have been excluded from the limited market and have to move to urban areas to find housing.”

The alliance said the conditions quickly created a multi-level crisis.

“Employers are struggling to find workers who can afford to live here, young families are being forced to move out, older people are being ‘renovated’ from homes they’ve lived in for years,” Theilheimer said. “It’s not an urban problem at all. We are going to have to work hard and very creatively.

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The group plans to hold town hall meetings in area communities during the last two weeks of September to educate candidates, learn from local residents, build ideas and enthusiasm, and recruit support and supporters. They will reach out to local municipalities, builders, investors and ordinary citizens for their participation and involvement.

The group’s mission statement also says, “Housing is a human right and has a greater impact on the most vulnerable in our communities. The problem, he says, gets worse with inflation.

AHAOV plans to call on local residents to become members and to partner with community organizations, municipalities and private funders.

“People tell us they want creative solutions for sustainable housing in our communities,” Theilheimer added. “It won’t be easy, but there is a huge need and, also, a huge support from the public.”

AHAOV members believe in the importance of generating research and creative ideas that will help inform and stimulate the development of unique, local solutions to the affordable housing crisis.

“We’re going to need a range of innovative options, including shared housing,” Theilheimer said.

AHAOV encourages people to visit and “like” its Facebook page to learn and get involved.

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Melissa C. Keyes