OPINION: Housing is Cornwall’s biggest issue

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By Nick Seebruch
OPINION: Housing is Cornwall’s biggest issue

In October of this year Cornwall will again be heading to the polls in a municipal election. At the end of the last municipal election, there were several issues that I believed would dominate this term of Council and go into the next.

Top issues I saw four years ago included developing Cornwall’s waterfront, growing the local economy, perhaps going back to a Ward system, and considering reducing the size of Council.

Now, I believe there is just one issue that must be addressed by Council and by City administration and that is the issue of housing in the City of Cornwall.

On Feb. 9, Statistics Canada will release the results of the 2021 Canadian Census. I believe that these results will show us a small snapshot of how fast the city has grown.

U-Haul has already provided us with a small peak at this snapshot this past week. U-Haul ranked Cornwall as number 20 on its list of fastest growing Canadian cities based on the number of one-way truck rentals coming into Cornwall.

In fact, the number of moving trucks coming to Cornwall grew by 17 per cent from the previous year.

Also, look at housing. Housing prices are skyrocketing in Cornwall and I believe that it is being driven by people moving to the city.

The average home sale price in Cornwall in 2021 was over $336,000 and increase of nearly 29 per cent from the previous year and over $100,000 higher than the average sale price in 2019.

I think that the COVID-19 pandemic is partially driving these higher home prices. More businesses are allowing their employees to work remotely and families who have that option are deciding that they no longer need to live in expensive cities like Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa and are coming to live and work in communities like Cornwall where housing prices are relatively cheap, at least for them.

There are great things coming in Cornwall’s future because of this rapid growth, I truly believe that. At the start of this week, the City of Cornwall approved the sale of over 158 acres of land to four different businesses looking to grow in Cornwall, at the handsome price of $50,000 an acre.

There are real benefits to this rapid growth, but the hot housing market that has come along with it I believe is also creating an issue that needs to be addressed.

People who already live here may be finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. Since the summer of 2021, I have spoken to multiple people in Cornwall who either were homeless, or close to it, and not because they were unemployed, but simply because they were unable to get into Cornwall’s rental/ housing market either because of the expense or because of the lack of supply.

Council received the results of a point-in-time enumeration of homelessness in Cornwall and the United Counties of SD&G and found that there were 77 people who identified as homeless, and of those 55, agreed to be surveyed. Of those surveyed, six were fully employed and 19 were on ODSP; 29 of the surveyed individuals said that they were unable to afford housing. The vast majority of those surveyed were either single or living together as a couple.

In 2021, the City of Cornwall created an Ad Hoc Committee to address the housing issue in Cornwall. The most direct solution to these problems would be increasing the amount of available housing in the city of Cornwall, and/or providing rental subsidies in those in need. Both of these solutions that I have offered are easier said than done, but Cornwall did recently break ground on a new 77-unit affordable housing building on the corner of McConnell Ave. and Ninth St., which should be completed by early 2023.

As you can see the causes and solutions of Cornwall’s housing issues are many and complex.

What are your opinions on this issue? Email me a Letter to the Editor at nseebruch@seawaynews.media

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