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Oct. 21, 2021 | Thursday
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Affordable housing, transportation hot topics at wellness forum
Wellness committee member Terry Mactaggart and Lori Forstinger at the wellness forum Thursday afternoon. (Brittany Carter/Niagara Now)

Affordable housing and transportation were hot topics at the town’s public wellness forum last Thursday, and though it’s just one step to creating a healthier community, the head of the town’s wellness committee said she is happy with the feedback she heard during discussions.

Cindy Grant, chair of the NOTL Community Wellness Committee, said she was “thrilled” to have so many people passionately discussing the issues, though she said she would have liked to see more representation from all areas of town.

About 40 people joined the forum’s morning session, with the lord mayor, members of the committee, and residents taking part in the discussions.

“Just looking around, I see a lot of residents from Old Town,” she said after the first session.

Longtime NOTL resident Lori Forstinger said it’s important to keep the younger generation in town, but the issue of affordable housing needs to be addressed for that to happen.

“I do think affordable housing is an issue for Niagara-on-the-Lake. It needs to be addressed. You’re not going to keep that 18 to 25-year-old group here. They might come back when they’re in their 40s, but they’re not staying now,” she said.

Over each two-hour session, committee members guided discussions on vital aspects of creating a healthy community: community vitality, including transportation; culture and leisure; democratic engagement, such as residents’ ability to freely participate in political activities; education, and education for future generations; environment, such as identifying availability of natural resources; healthy community, addressing physical and mental health; living standards, with a focus on affordable housing; and time use, such as how time use affects well-being.

Grant said she was impressed with the vigor at which the community participated in the forum. In hindsight, she said more time for discussions might have been helpful.

“We probably should have booked this for three hours, but we really wanted to be respectful of their time,” she said.

Forstinger, who has resided in three different areas of NOTL in the 28 years she’s lived here, said she wanted to join the forum to offer her input for a healthier community.

Living in Garrison Village at one time, moving to more rural areas, and now in the development across from the community centre, she said she has a decent grasp of the needs of different parts of town and the growth of those areas.

“I’ve kind of felt the town in different ways. I see the town really changing and growing with new people,” she said.

Crediting the municipality for developing a sense of pride in the community, Forstinger said the people who live in NOTL, whether they were born and raised here or moved from elsewhere, all seem to share that community pride.

“They’re proud to say that they’re from here. I think there’s a lot of positive living about being here in Niagara-on-the-Lake,” she said.

Participating in the wellness forum is one way to keep that pride going, she said.

Grant said the next step will be to compile all the feedback and information with results from an online survey as well, and to make recommendations to council.

“The expectation is that we’ll present a report in November, to council. We might have to kick it forward to January,” she said.