How did we get here?
How is it that hundreds of single family homes can be erected in Chelsea in what seems like just a few years, but it has taken over 10 to build just 12 seniors’ units in Farm Point?
How is that 22 kilometres of railway can be converted into a $2.23 million trail for cyclists and pedestrians in a little over three years, but it has taken over 10 years to build just 12 seniors’ units in Farm Point?
How is it that politicians and advocates can voice a “screaming need” for a strategy for seniors for decades, yet it has taken 10 years to build just 12 seniors’ units in Farm Point?
And while those 12 units are slowly becoming a reality, it will be a drop in the bucket for the region’s aging population. This bandaid in Farm Point won’t even cover the giant wound that has been festering for decades in the MRC des Collines-de-l’Outaouais — and the reality is that a lot of seniors won’t be able to grow old in Chelsea. They just won’t.
According to data from La Table de développement social des Collines-de-l’Outaouais, there are just 162 social and private seniors homes in the MRC des Collines region — and exactly zero in Chelsea. With a rapidly-aging population – 6,366 citizens in the region over the age of 65 – the situation is nearing a crisis, if not there already. But what can we do? How did we get here?
If you ask outgoing Chelsea Mayor Caryl Green, she’ll argue that bureaucracy has been the main hurdle — especially the three-year moratorium Quebec placed on building permits following the deadly fire in L’Isle-Verte in 2014 that killed 32 seniors.
But that moratorium was lifted in 2017. How many homes went up in Chelsea since then?
Chelsea could have, absolutely should have, mandated developers to include a certain number of affordable rental options within their expensive developments and, in fact, Mayor Green confirmed that the next council will consider that approach, but this should have been mandated 10 years ago.
Sure, there are some projects on the table that will help alleviate some of the pressure that older folks will be facing in Chelsea – 60 seniors’ units within the Quartier Meredith development near the village post office and up to 200 rental-only units in phase two of the Chelsea Creek project – but even this is not enough.
For Chelsea to improve the housing landscape for seniors, it’s important to understand what is at stake. If this trend continues, the majority of seniors in Chelsea will be forced to move out of the municipality and into bigger cities where there are more services, facilities, and beds. Think about what that means.
It means Chelsea will be losing out on people like André and Diane Renaud, who are the very definition of community builders. Are we going to tell André, former councillor and mayor of Chelsea, that he can’t grow old in his own community? Are we going to tell him – the person who founded Wakefield Palliative Care Home, who single-handedly saved the hospital from closure in the 1980s, and who was the chairman of the Wakefield Hospital Board – that he has to leave?
It’s time for Chelsea to start giving back to the many seniors that have given their entire lives to this community.