Publisher column January 22

I recently listened intently to a speaker talking about the need for looking to new solutions in community housing. An article in The Economist looked at new solutions for community housing. In a community like Fort Frances, sprawl and infill are easy solutions for new building lots. Coun. Wiedenhoft was surprised at the potential costs of building lots on Erin Crescent, just to recover the costs of installing services.
As the newly funded study begins for the Shevlin Woodyard, planners should take into consideration the potential of high-density condominium homes and consider the potential for multi storey buildings to accommodate those units. In larger centres, those buildings often have services on the main floor, including dentists, coffee shops and hairdressers, all to service the tenants of those buildings.
This brought me back to the speaker and The Economist. Both recommended higher density housing. Both looked at the potential of condominiums of 600-700 square foot single bedroom homes as starter homes for singles, the elderly and couples. At $300 per square foot to build, including lot price, the 600-700 square foot new units would be within the range of many buyers and renters. On a 17 metre lot, four units could be built cutting the cost of land from $80K for one unit to $20K for each of the four units.
Similarly, by creating smaller multiple bedroom condos or apartments, the costs of ownership would also be reduced.
Older homes in Fort Frances have a more pressing need to reduce energy costs. Many of the homes built when heating oil was 10 cents a gallon, with the walls often hollow or filled with sawdust, are energy hogs today. Often they have been renovated and 4″ insulation has been placed in the walls and insulation added into the attics, but that too is not considered sufficient by today’s standards. Many of the homes built prior to 2000 have such issues.
As we turn to green energy, cities across North America are grappling with protecting and preserving historic architectural homes and neighbourhoods. As the price of solar heat panels and power continues to decline, homeowners today are considering using those panels on roofs to collect electricity for their homes and moving the excess into the grid, doing away with carbon fuels to heat their homes. Often, they run into direct conflict with municipal bylaws and building codes.
Affordable housing is not just the cost of building or buying a home, but also includes the costs of maintaining the home, paying the real estate taxes and meeting the energy costs of home ownership. It is an issue that every community in Canada and the United States is grappling with. Councils in every jurisdiction in Rainy River must grapple with how to mitigate climate change for their citizens. They must examine policies to reduce the costs of acquiring affordable homes, upgrading existing homes and allowing homeowners to use the latest technology to reduce the monthly costs of home ownership. How councils handle these issues will have a great impact in the future of communities.

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