The municipality of Chelsea is stuck in its own sh*t, literally.
Mayor Pierre Guénard said he would love to add a new school, provincial daycare and seniors’ homes to the village core, but to do so, the municipality needs to expand its sewer and water treatment plant, which is currently at 100 per cent capacity.
Guénard told the Low Down that the region’s health authority, Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de l'Outaouais (CISSSO), has recommended that a seniors’ home be built in Chelsea’s downtown core, but with the new influx of homes and businesses that have popped up since 2015, the sewer system can’t take on any more units.
“Right now, the water and sewer plant doesn’t have the capacity,” said Guénard,
referring to the barriers facing Chelsea’s push to build more seniors’ homes in the area. “Those are the limitations right now that we are facing. It’s the same with the school. All of the units for 100 per cent of the capacity have been already allocated.
The seniors’ house would be on top of that capacity; the school would be on top of that capacity; a CPE daycare would be on top of that capacity.”
In 2021, then-mayor Caryl Green told the Low Down that a 60-unit seniors’ home was on the books as part of the Quartier Meredith development near the post office. But that proposal is now shelved until Chelsea figures out its toilet problem.
The French school board Centre de Services Scolaire des Portages-de-l'Outaouais has proposed a new school in Chelsea, as the population is growing and École du Grand-Boisé is currently over capacity. Three families were asked to volunteer to transfer their children to a school in Hull at the beginning of the school year because it was full.
Guénard said council is currently discussing how to proceed, as it will need to upgrade the $23 million sewage treatment plant on Chemin Hudson to grow the village core.
He said council was set to go to tender earlier this year, but pulled back the resolution to address some concerns. The municipality does not have a price tag for the sewer expansion.
The region desperately lacks an affordable housing strategy for seniors and low-income families. A 2021 study by La Table des développement social des Collines-de-l'Outaouais revealed that 15 per cent of households in the MRC des Collines spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing. The 30 per cent income-to-housing ratio is the threshold the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Company (CMHC) uses to deem a home “affordable.” That means more than 3,000 families are currently living in homes they can’t afford.
Guénard said council is currently working on a new bylaw that would bring developers and housing organizations together to allot a certain number of units designated as “affordable” in future developments.
It has taken the Chelsea Housing Corporation over 12 years to construct a 12-unit seniors’ home in Farm Point. The project is set to go to tender this spring.