Moncton affordable housing entity faces do-or-die municipal vote Monday

Click to play video: 'Council discusses $6 million for affordable housing entity'
Council discusses $6 million for affordable housing entity
WATCH: Moncton councilors are discussing whether to give the Rising Tide Community Initiative $6 million over three years. The city would likely need to cut services or raise taxes to make it happen. If approved, Rising Tide will seek matching funds from the province – Nov 2, 2020

An affordable housing non-profit, promising to house some of the most vulnerable people in Moncton, will face a critical municipal council vote Monday.

Rising Tide Community Initiative Inc. expects to purchase abandoned houses, vacant lots and other “undervalued properties” to provide 125 affordable units over the next three years.

The plan also would provide services such as case managers and supports for addictions and mental health.

Co-founder Dale Hicks says the idea is to help people get on their feet and participating more in society.

“The hope here is that after three years, a number of those people will moved through those units and maybe moved off into their own apartments somewhere, maybe they have a job,” said Hicks, who is also president of the Food Depot Alimentaire.

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Read more: Advocates calls for legislative changes to require affordable housing as part of new builds

But the group is requesting $6 million from both the municipal and provincial governments over the next three years.

But affordable housing is not part of a municipal government’s jurisdiction, and Hicks says the project is contingent on municipal support.

“The city is going to either kickstart this thing or it’s going to sort of die a slow death, I guess,” Hicks tells Global News.

Dale Hicks, a founding board member of Rising Tide and president of Food Depot Alimentaire, speaks to reporters after presenting to Moncton city councillors in February, 2020. Callum Smith / Global News

Charles Léger, a city councillor for ward 2, acknowledges investing in affordable housing is not typically a municipal responsibility. He says related costs do come down to the municipal budget.

“However, it is our problem and these are our citizens,” he says. “Probably 60 per cent or more of [police] calls are related to homelessness and mental health challenges.”
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Léger is also chair of the Codiac Regional Policing Authority

“We’re at the cusp of having to make a decision that would be the long-term solution for growing Moncton and making it a thriving — continue to make it a thriving — community,” he says.

Bryan Butler, a ward 3 councillor, says “this is a really hard decision, especially with the cold weather coming.”

He says the main two ways to find additional money are to cut services or increase the tax rate.

Read more: ‘What are we supposed to do?: Another Moncton tent camp cleared out

“Our services have been cut as low as they can get,” he says. “Is it a good idea? I think it’s a great idea, if everybody’s got the money…. This pandemic has been really hard on the city’s financials.”

Butler says he’s still undecided if he’d support or vote against the idea, but would have a hard time supporting it if tax increases of about 3 cents for the next three years were required.

But Léger says a preventative approach to homelessness and working poor housing concerns will save money in the long run. He says the city could defer other capital projects to find the $2-million for the next three years.

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He says hopes council “reply in a favourable way” to the initiative.

“And assure citizens that their taxes don’t need to go up,” he says. “And by the way, there are efficiencies that will be gained that really, in the long run, will be far better for all our taxpayers in Moncton.”

Councillor Charles Léger (shown above) and Councillor Bryan Butler both say this is one of the most difficult decisions to be made in their mandate. Callum Smith / Global News

Both councillors agree this is one of the most challenging decisions to be made in their mandate.

Hicks says any long-term support, beyond three years, would come from the provincial government.

“We won’t be taking a penny from the city until we can come back and demonstrate to them that we have an arrangement with the province that is going to look after the sustainability of [the project].”
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The group will also seek federal dollars to expedite its plan.

Council meets at 4 p.m. Monday.

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