Hugo Rodrigues Doesn’t Understand Cornwall Ontario Housing Crisis by Jamie Gilcig 110217

Cornwall Ontario –  The problem with people being parachuted into communities to be journalists is that sometimes, some of them, bring an outside perspective and don’t really look at the local big picture.   And sometimes they may listen to the wrong people.

Or sometimes, they just poot any silly thought that pops into their head.

The Freeholder’s Hugo Rodrigues just did a piece on Cornwall housing.   Clearly it looks like he is missing the boat.

He uses data from Census Canada which is good.  That means he’s at least trying to take positions based on fact as opposed to the time he wrote an editorial suggesting that the now deceased Cornwall Public Art Gallery wasn’t a public gallery in spite of it being a charity at the time of over 35 years which many suggested he only wrote because yours truly was on the board at the time.

Here are some of the mighty concepts from Hugo’s piece (in italics):

The needle has been moving towards renting and away from ownership, as Statistics Canada reported 1,300 new rental units have been added to Cornwall from 2006-16, while the number of owned homes has dropped. Only 54 per cent of us own the homes we live in— or, more likely, pay a mortgage instead of paying rent.

The biggest factor in fewer people owning homes in Cornwall is the trend of higher and medium paying job losses.  Just look at the Freeholder itself that has drastically cut its own workforce and replaced long time staff earning better salaries with better pensions with junior writers and staff.   Since 2006 full time jobs with benefits have plunged.  Even our call centers have taken a hit.   Far too many jobs are transitory and run through employment agencies which many locals complain about.     Many young families are leaving because one spouse can’t get a good enough job when families need both incomes to survive.  People struggling to survive don’t qualify for mortgages, and those no longer able to afford their homes created a situation where some investors were able to swoop in and buy up cheap properties.  Just ask Eric Lang.  Half of the downtown business core sold for less than $300K per building over the last 15 years including a group of 50 Asian buyers repped by lawyer Sean Adams.

We know one of the things that makes our community attractive is because our homes cost less to purchase then comparable homes in larger communities. A good three- or four-bedroom resale detached home can be had in Cornwall for under $200,000. A new-construction palace for about $300,000 and there’s plenty of housing stock available for under $175,000.

Over half the homes in Cornwall are valued at under $180,000.

Cornwall was blessed, or cursed depending on your position, with having a larger inventory of older less expensive housing.  You can still buy a duplex in the East End of Cornwall for less than $100K most days.  The problem is that many of our lower priced housing units have seen prices jump because many buying homes in the community are coming from Ottawa where prices are much higher.    Add in some of the newer homes in Cornwall pricing and the optics are leading to a false perception of housing prices.    If one were to look at local people buying homes the perspective would be very different.     The inventory of older homes is shrinking, never to be replaced.  Many are holding onto those homes knowing that they simply can’t afford to upgrade.  Many local real estate agents are complaining about how hard it is to get listings now.

The market rents in Cornwall are not proportionally attractive compared to other communities. While we don’t have Ottawa- or Montreal-level rents, renting in Cornwall is at similar price point as it is in comparable and slightly larger communities. What’s being charged in rent – especially for rental homes as opposed to multi-unit block buildings – easily allows Cornwall landlords to pay the property’s mortgage, insurance, property taxes, water/sewer and other bills.

This was Hugo’s best point.   The reality is that most rents in Cornwall, other than in substandard units in certain sections is expensive compared to the local average income which is much lower than Ottawa or Kingston.  Those on fixed incomes are in many cases in very dire straits.

Investment housing in Cornwall has become a very profitable business, but the dynamics are skewed in a way that it does not overtly encourage investing those profits into maintaining and improving those rental units.

I’m not sure where in the census that Hugo found this?   We’ve seen far too many apartment complexes turned into condos.  The biggest area of growth seems to be in student rooming houses for St. Lawrence College, hardly a resounding triumph of profitability for a community of this size.

Most of the few developments, like the Cotton Mill condos were given ten year tax vacations from the city.  Even Smart Centres were given $500K in tax breaks to build the new Walmart mall.  Essentially development has been created on the backs of those that can least afford it and who have little chance of ever owning a home or benefitting from those tax breaks.  Does it make sense for lower income people to subsidize those that can afford waterfront condos or Walmart?

As we become a city of tenants, there are civic implications to this dynamic.

Home owners are more invested in their properties, their neighbourhoods and their communities. They vote in greater numbers than tenants.

Again, not sure that this was covered in the Census, but looking at the EU, where home ownership is far lower than here in Cornwall, it has a much higher voter turnout, especially in the UK where voter turnout has been over 60%!

There are many issues that get people involved in voting and home ownership is usually not at the top of the pecking order.    LINK

Some people think it’s their jobs to make a turd into a ….well I’m not sure what, but at the end of the day you can only bend the truth so far before it stops being a truth.

As Jean Chretien said,

A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It’s a proof. A proof is a proof. And when you have a good proof, it’s because it’s proven.

Cornwall has five major crisis that City Hall is failing us all on .    Housing, jobs, our local economy, corruption, and Big Ben.   Those should be the main issues of concern in the upcoming election,   The question is whether Hugo and the Freeholder will still be in Cornwall at that time?

What do you think dear CFN viewers?  Are you happy with your housing?  If renting do you think you’ll ever own a home and if you do, do you think it will be in Cornwall?


  1. Author

    Mr. Rodrigues sent another of his missives. Here it is unedited.


    Regarding your post titled “Hugo Rodrigues Doesn’t Understand Cornwall Ontario Housing Crisis by Jamie Gilcig 110217,” published on Nov. 2.

    You wrote the Standard-Freeholder had, “replaced long time staff earning better salaries with better pensions with junior writers and staff.”

    I am not aware of anyone working at the Standard-Freeholder who was hired under those circumstances.

    Len Hooper voluntarily signed up for our buyout program and left in January 2017. He was not replaced.
    Greg Peerenboom also voluntarily signed up for our buyout program. It was accepted when we confirmed that we were able to hire Alan S. Hale from Timmins, where no newsroom members applied for a buyout and he had initially been given a layoff notice. Had Greg not applied for a buyout of his own volition, he would still be working here as we’ve had no other rounds of buyouts or layoffs since then and I did not want our newsroom to lose any of its three full-time reporter positions.

    The Standard-Freeholder was able to let someone who had voluntarily applied for a buyout leave and save another journalist in the chain from being laid off.

    Reporters here are unionized, so Alan is on the same wage grid that Greg was on before he left. He will earn the exact same wage Greg was earning when he reaches the appropriate step on the grid. The pension available to Alan is also comparable to the one that was available to Greg. The benefits available to him are the exact same ones Greg was eligible to receive.

    If you wish to go back further? Prior to my arrival, Erika Glasberg and Cheryl Brink left their jobs to pursue other opportunities and interests. Diane and Lois Ann Baker were hired to replace them similar to how any position would be filled when vacant. In December 2013, Diane was laid off in that round of Quebecor layoffs and that position was not replaced.
    Brian Dryden was fired. I was hired to fill the vacancy at the same wage he was making.
    Prior to that, Claude McIntosh took a buyout as associate editor– though he’s not shy to tell anyone he was going to retire and was told to wait a little while until the buyout became available. His position was not replaced. When his column was cut for financial reasons, we didn’t replace it.
    There were other layoffs as well prior to 2013 — Tony Muma is one I know of.

    To suggest the Standard-Freeholder has dismissed long-service employees in order to replace them with cheaper labour is false and misleading. Staff members have either departed by their own volition and we’ve filled the vacancy left by their absence or they have been offered buyouts / laid off and not replaced.

    As someone who has stated you correct your own errors and are “always happy to print a retraction and apology,” I continue to hope you’ll actually live up to this stated commitment and publish one.


    T: 613.933.3160 ext. 508225
    1150 Montreal Rd.
    Cornwall ON K6H 1E2

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