Easier said than done. Politicians from across our area can read the numbers. They know the population here is aging at a fast rate and the best thing that could happen would be a massive influx of young people, especially those in the ‘family formation’ stage. Those are the people who support schools and local businesses.
The MRC has a plan to attract 10,000 new workers and 6,000 families to the 21 towns and small cities in the Brome Missisquoi area over the next ten years. We’ve heard of similar plans before.
This time it could be more than wishful thinking. There are changes taking place in society that will help make the ambitious plan come true.
The cost of housing in large cities, like Montreal, prices many people out of the market, especially young people. Even in Montreal, for example, the most affordable housing is in the outer suburbs, almost an hour from the center. There is also the mounting frustration of commuters with traffic congestion caused by construction work around Montreal. A situation that will last for a few years to come.
Housing in our area is affordable, though perhaps not in places such as Knowlton where there is a concentration of retired people. New housing developments in Foster and off Bourgade near Mt-Echo Road. promise to ease somewhat the “affordable” housing shortage.
Technology, in particular high-speed internet, means working from home is a reality now. Many people in this area do work such as surveys from their home. Translators, designers and office workers do not need to commute. This means city salaries in a rural area.
For people who need to go into the city, there are modern commuter buses with onboard Wi-Fi that use special lanes to avoid traffic jams at the bridge.
There is an existing network of schools, medical clinics and hospitals to alleviate any worries of people leaving the city. Health and education infrastructure will need the influx of new arrivals to continue to provide their services.
If the MRC can do anything else to make this area even more attractive, we may well see a renaissance of our towns and villages. Our region already has a vigorous cultural life complete with theatre, music and film, all this located in a spectacular natural setting. There are already new faces of immigrants from the Middle East, Africa and the United States who will play a welcome part in any revitalization.
Beyond the efforts of the MRC and other municipalities, we will need to embrace change and the people who will bring it with them.