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Housing experts put heads together at NDP roundtable

January 18th,2023 | Valley Voices

By Carl Hager

Speakers representing a diverse group of political and community groups spoke at a round table on the crisis in housing organized by the NDP Pontiac on Jan. 14 at the Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO) in Hull. 

Speakers included Celine Brault, Chelsea community activist and volunteer with the Chelsea Housing Corporation, a non-profit community group; Daniel Blaikie, NDP MP from Winnipeg; Latonya Ludford, an expert on urbanism and housing with The Shift Cities group, and Raphaël Déry, a lawyer working with la Federation Intercooperative. Their experiences and difficulties advocating for affordable and accessible housing were the focus of the presentations.

Riding association president, Catherine Emond, said, “we wanted to give members of the Pontiac community an opportunity to discuss the housing crisis from the point of view of their experiences and to hear what kinds of solutions they want to see enacted.”

Celine Brault, working with the Chelsea Housing Corporation for about twelve years to build a 12-unit residence for seniors in Farm Point, gave a concise description of the many hurdles and disappointments encountered in realizing the committee’s dream of building a senior residence in Chelsea. “Not everyone in Chelsea is wealthy, and our aim was to keep seniors in their hometown of Chelsea,” she said. 

Hurdles included slow government response, removal from the active list by the government because it was taking so long, increasing costs, and constant new regulations, including building code updates. Brault said the tenacity of the volunteers working on the project has been instrumental in seeing the project come to fruition.

The Municipality of Chelsea has supported the project by generously donating the land required for the project and some recurring financing. Brault was happy to announce that, finally, after more than a decade of work, tenders will be going out for the construction of the project.

Daniel Blaikie, NDP MP for Manitoba, stated that housing must be seen as a human right, not just another commodity to be bartered over. 

“Right now, we are leaving too many people behind. In Canada, we are losing fifteen affordable units for every new one created. It is important to tell MPs that the market approach to housing is not working for Canadians.”

Raphael Dery, the DG and lawyer with la Fédération Intercoopérative en Habitation de l’Outaouais, spoke about his experiences with cooperative housing and the need for more. 

Latonya Ludford,  appearing by Zoom from Toronto, re-iterated that housing must be seen as a human right. Ludford said that the best place to advance housing is at the municipal level, where a Human Rights approach to housing is most likely to succeed.  

Emond closed the session by thanking the presenters. She said that the NDP Pontiac was planning more such round tables on social policy in future.

Carl Hager is a retired educator, community volunteer, and active with the Pontiac NDP Association.

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