Affordable housing is one option for the present Prescott and Russell Residence building once the long-term care facility relocates to its new location. 

A new $75.7 million, 224-bed facility is under construction on Spence Avenue in Hawkesbury, with completion projected in December of this year. It will replace the existing residence on nearby Cartier Boulevard. The current facility is more than 40 years old.

At the February 9 UCPR Council Committee of the Whole meeting, Director of Social Services and Housing Sylvie Millette referred to the affordable housing shortage in the counties and reminded the mayors who had participated in the development of Community Safety and Well-being Plans that finding solutions to the housing shortage is a major priority. Millette is requesting council authorize a feasibility study to see if the existing building can be reused for affordable housing, or torn down and rebuilt for affordable housing, or sold as-is. The study would also determine the number of units of affordable housing and if any opportunities existed for housing new immigrants.  

“I believe this is an excellent idea,” said Clarence-Rockland Mayor Mario Zanth. 

He said Clarence-Rockland is exploring similar options for the existing Centre d’accueil Roger-Séguin long-term care facility’s building, which is being replaced.  

Zanth suggested all UCPR mayors draft a letter to the provincial government requesting it provides incentives to builders for affordable housing projects. He said using the existing Prescott and Russell Residence building would cost a lot, but “We have to start from somewhere.” 

Russell Township Mayor Pierre Leroux suggested a fourth option where the building could become housing for medical personnel who work at the Hawkesbury and District General Hospital, if it becomes a full teaching hospital affiliated with university medical schools. Leroux said rents collected could be used as a revenue stream to finance affordable housing. 

“Those revenue streams will help pay for affordable housing throughout all of Prescott-Russell,” Leroux said. 

La Nation Mayor François St-Amour said he agrees with the idea of exploring affordable housing options for the building. 

Hawkesbury Mayor Paula Assaly commented how the Town of Hawkesbury had obtained information on housing needs through a study done by the Alberta-based Rural Development Network. 

Millette emphasized the study would be about the feasibility of affordable housing, not additional social housing units, which the UCPR also owns and maintains. 

Zanth proposed a recommendation for the study, which was seconded by Alfred and Plantagenet Mayor Stéphane Sarrazin. However, Leroux said he wanted to look at other possibilities. East Hawkesbury Mayor Robert Kirby also indicated he wants to investigate possible revenue streams.  

Sarrazin said the site has a lot of potential to create more housing units, and emphasized that at this stage, the discussion is about a feasibility study. He said a private promoter could offer other plans for senior living at the site. 

Champlain Township Mayor Normand Riopel said the study will offer a guideline and suggested the UCPR issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a study on housing or other uses.  

“There are many options to look at,” he said. 

The mayors agreed to have Millette report back to council at a future date with options on how to proceed with a feasibility study on possibly using the former Prescott-Russell Residence building for affordable housing, and the financial options for paying for the study.