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  • Writer's pictureTrevor Greenway

Housing should be only option for old town hall

Only one initiative should be considered when deciding what to do with the old town hall in La Pêche: affordable housing. 


With the municipality shelling out a whopping $10.7 million for a new, eco-friendly town hall – a building that won’t get much public use aside from monthly council meetings and permit requests – the best way to give back to its residents in a meaningful way is to give them affordable, quality homes to live in. 


If you’ve been reading the Low Down over the past few years, you are aware of just how dire the situation is for families living in the Hills – or those trying to live in the Hills. We’ve beaten our readers over the heads with the stats: more than 3,000 residents – 15 per cent of households in the MRC des Collines – spend more than 30 per cent of their household income on housing, which is the “affordable” threshold set by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. 


The front page of this newspaper last November featured an emotional story and photo of a local Wakefield mother of three, Sam Maloney, who was pushed out of the village by skyrocketing rent and forced to move more than 50 kilometres north – away from her kids’ school, the village and the place she’s called home for more than a decade. 


Stories like this bring a human element to the housing crisis in Quebec: We’re pushing our own community members out of their communities. 


It doesn’t have to be this way. 


La Pêche Mayor Guillaume Lamoureux and councillors didn’t put any money aside in this year’s budget for affordable housing, despite an 8.6 tax increase for median homeowners. Lamoureux told the Low Down that in order to get funding and put funding towards affordable housing, you need a project lined up. 


Here’s your project, Mr. Mayor. 


The old town hall in La Pêche is in the heart of downtown Masham – walking distance to the local French schools, the pharmacy, the arena and a short walk to some of the finest fast food in the Hills: Ti-Ray or La Patate À Carlo. The building will soon be vacant, and La Pêche should step in, take the lead and turn this old building into a home for some of our lower-income families – families like Maloney, aging seniors, and for the woman and her husband at Motel Chelsea last December, who said she was staying there until they found a suitable rental in the area. The old town hall would be for them. 


If La Pêche is spending $4.87 million of taxpayer dollars for new digs for staffers and politicians (the rest is paid for in grants), then it should spend the same amount converting the old town hall into affordable apartments. 


While the municipality identified the need for a new town hall close to a decade ago, it’s fair to question whether now was the right time to spend close to $5 million on a new building when residents struggle to afford rent, groceries and gas. 


The opportunity is yours, La Pêche.

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