MOUNTAIN – A recent Linking Hands housing survey has shown a definite need in Dundas County for assistance in combatting energy poverty.

Out of 162 surveys, 69 per cent of the local respondents said their housing costs exceed the recommended 35 per cent of their income, while 77 per cent listed high hydro costs as their biggest housing issue right now.

The results also showed that 43 per cent of residents pinpointed new windows and doors as the top remedy to help with energy efficiency.

In order to address the growing provincial issue, Linking Hands has partnered with Winchester BMR to provide window insulation kits for Dundas County’s most vulnerable sector.

BMR owners Ken and Trish Boje will supply the kits at cost ($4 per window), which will be purchased by Linking Hands through fundraising efforts initiated in the community.

“While there is much to be done on the housing front in Dundas County – and much of this will take significant time and effort to accomplish – there are things we can do right now, beginning with the free distribution of window insulation kits to those in need,” said Linking Hands co-ordinator Casselman said. “Together, we can tackle our county’s housing concerns one step at a time.”

Individuals or agencies that would like to donate are asked to contact Casselman at 613-989-3830 or by email at scasselman@houseoflazarus.com.

The project’s success also relies on the community to spread the word so those in need are aware of its availability. Kits will be distributed to eligible Dundas County residents through local food banks, such as Community Food Share and the House of Lazarus (HOL).

Residents who are not food bank clients, but still cannot afford to buy a kit themselves are encouraged to contact Casselman.

The housing survey was launched earlier this year by Linking Hands’ Housing Working Group, which is comprised of several representatives from community agencies who are determined to figure out how to fill the housing gap in Dundas County.

The survey polled county food bank clients, local childcare clients, and the general population through paper surveys at various events, as well as online.

“In Dundas County, there’s no affordable housing for anyone other than seniors, and for seniors it’s very limited as well – the waiting lists are long, and there’s no emergency housing, at all,” said Cathy Ashby, HOL’s executive director. “By figuring out what the needs are in Dundas County, and what works elsewhere, we really want to push this project forward and get somewhere with this. From the surveys, with the knowledge of what we could do, we can push some of the possibilities that are out there.”

The results of the survey showed that the majority of respondents fell between the ages of 45 and 64. Seventy-six people were shown as renters, 82 respondents owned their own homes, and six people were staying with friends or family (identified as couch-surfing type of homeless).

The top housing needs were shown to be lower hydro costs (77 per cent), lower rent/mortgage costs (35 per cent), and lower utility costs (30 per cent).

One respondent noted: “I choose to rent in an area on well water to avoid water/sewer charges. That’s another expense I couldn’t afford.”

Close to 70 per cent of respondents also said that they did not have funds available for urgent repairs to their homes. A higher number of respondents than expected said they are living without mandatory smoke and/or carbon monoxide detectors.

According to Casselman, the results also showed there’s a need for better promotion of housing information, as well as education on what resources are available and how to access those resources.

“The housing concerns in Dundas County are real and many, from homelessness to substandard living conditions, to insufficient affordable rental options,” Casselman said.

The results from the survey can be found on the Linking Hands website at www.linkinghandsdundas.ca.