The organization representing county government wardens across Eastern Ontario has partnered with two other organizations to improve access to data necessary for determining local housing needs. 

The Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC), Rural Ontario Institute (ROI) and IT firm Itergy are creating a digital tool that will support municipalities in the planning and construction of new affordable housing and address the housing shortage in Eastern Ontario. 

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the national average price of a house in 2021 was $713,500. In the area served by the Ottawa Real Estate Board, which includes Prescott and Russell counties, the average price in 2021 was $719,605 for residential class properties and $419,683 for condominium units. 

In 2020, a study by the Alberta-based Rural Development Network the incidence of low incomes in Hawkesbury is nearly double that of other communities in Prescott-Russell and Ontario. Approximately 57 per cent of households which completed the survey reported paying more than 30 per cent of their gross income on housing. 

To address the rural housing gap, the EOWC and ROI have devised a data-driven, outcomes focused solution that will harness data in an automated and easy to use public dashboard including: 

  • demographic trends (population, growth, age and income) 
  • average home and market rental information 
  • available zoned land 
  • building costs (development charges and parkland fees) 
  • available incentives like municipal grants or loans 
  • housing assets and amenities 
  • and local organizations available for collaboration. 

“We need to provide a solution or a possible solution,” said EOWC Chair and Renfrew County Warden, Debbie Robinson.  

The online tool will be a database assisting developers, realtors, planning departments, and nonprofit organizations with planning and prioritizing housing needs. Robinson said the information will help experts in those agencies and organizations answer a series of questions. 

“What is the real need? Where are people coming from? Where are they living now?,” she said. 

The database will contain real-time information gathered by the ROI. Robinson is hopeful it will allow for better needs-based identification of what types of housing, and at what cost, is needed in communities across Eastern Ontario. 

“We can start looking at this in innovative ways,” Robinson remarked. 

Town of Hawkesbury Planner Celeste Cordonnier said such a database would be very useful. 

“Having a database which would be updated on a regular basis would considerably help planners, politicians and developers to propose residential projects that will answer the needs,” she said. 

The EOWC-ROI rural housing partnership project is funded with $1.4 million through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) Housing Supply Challenge, with rollout of the tool expected for the Spring of 2023.