As the displaced residents of the Cole Crescent building in Miramichi, N.B., get ready to move from one temporary shelter to another, a broader conversation over the state of affordable housing in the city is ramping up.
“The affordable housing is next to nil as far as I’m concerned,” said tenant Steve MacDonald. “I know that other towns and other cities have all kinds available and Miramichi seems to not have realized that there’s a need.”
MacDonald is one of over 50 people given four hours notice that they would be evicted from their building on Wednesday, after a fire marshal found exposed electrical wires and other issues in the building.
Since then, up to 15 tenants have been staying in a temporary Red Cross shelter at the Golden Hawk community shelter, but are being moved into the gym at the James M. Hill High School.
MacDonald says many of the tenants are actively looking for other places to live, but with a vacancy rate of about 1.5 per cent, housing in the city is hard to come by. Most landlords also charge a full month’s damage deposit, meaning that tenants often have to pay upwards of $1,000 to move into a new apartment.
Miramichi Mayor Adam Lordon says the city is well aware of the affordable housing crisis and is doing all it can to get more housing built, but is having a hard time attracting development.
“There needs to be some interest in actually creating long-term affordable housing in the community and mid-range housing. We’re going to continue to reach out to every developer that we can and hopefully someone will be interested, especially with the new federal and provincial incentive programs that have recently come out,” he said.
WATCH: Residents of Miramichi apartment building forced out of their homes
Miramachi MLA Michelle Conroy says she intends to do what she can to make affordable housing for the area a provincial priority, but also points to the lack of emergency preparedness in the city.
“We need to have some kind of action plan,” she said.
“We have many buildings around here with a lot of people in them. So if this was to happen again, it’s a lot of work to get somebody situated and there needs to be discussion there needs to be meetings about what happens and to know, you know, where they’re going immediately.”
There is yet to be a concrete date for when tenants can get back into their homes, but according to the owner, he’s hoping to have the building ready in the next four to five days.