« Honestly, we’ve been thinking about this for quite a few years, » said Sylvie Millette, social services director for the United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR), during a phone interview February 10.
Millette thinks the present Prescott-Russell Residence might have potential as an affordable housing project. She presented UCPR council during its February 9 committee of the whole session with a proposal for her department do a feasibility study on possible options for the building once its tenants have relocated to the new Residence.
« This study, » she told council, « would evaluate Option 1, if a revamp of the existing building would be feasible; Option 2, to demolish and rebuild; or Option 3, to sell it as is. »
Millette reminded council that past studies and surveys done for the UCPR on critical community issues listed affordable housing as « the number one concern » for many residents and agencies in Prescott-Russell. All she needed from council was its consent and support to begin the planning process for an evaluation study.
« I think this is an excellent idea, » said Mayor Mario Zanth of Clarence-Rockland. « We have over 1000 people on the (affordable housing) waiting list. We have to find a solution. »
Council gave unanimous support to Millette to begin preparations work for the study. There was discussion about whether to limit the study’s focus to affordable housing.
Mayor Pierre Leroux suggested a fourth option for the study to determine if the building could serve as a type of dormitory housing for medical students if Hawkesbury and District General Hospital (HGH) became a regional teaching hospital.
« That way we could create a revenue stream for having students living there, » he said, « and we could use that revenue to help increase affordable housing in Prescott-Russell. We know we have a shortage of a lot of medical positions in Prescott-Russell. If we can get HGH to become a partner, there could be a lot of benefits. »
Hawkesbury Mayor Paula Assaly suggested that co-op housing might be a form of affordable housing that the study could explore.
Planning for the study will include determining how much it might cost, how to pay for it, and the process for hiring a consultant to do it. Millette noted that federal seed funding may be available from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) but that one of the conditions might be that the study focus on affordable housing and not any form of social housing.
« We are confident that we would qualify for the seed funding, » she told the Tribune Express.
Millette’s department will begin the tender referral process for getting consultant bid proposals for the study. She expects to have a report ready for council by April or May, with a list of consultant candidates, their cost estimates, and funding options for the study.