Groups representing tenants and low-income New Brunswickers have signed a letter to the premier stating concern over housing conditions in the province.
“Rent increases are far outpacing median income, housing is becoming less affordable, and tenants have little to no protection from rent increases and evictions,” read a Tuesday news release.
Spearheaded by the New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants Rights and the Human Development Council, the letter was signed by 30 other non-profits in the province.
It outlines increased challenges related to housing brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the letter, vacancy rates in N.B. dropped while tenant shelter costs rose 14 per cent between the last two censuses. The median tenant income increased by only 11 per cent, the letter says.
New Brunswick homeowners, however, saw median income grow by 13.8 per cent, and shelter costs by 9.9 per cent.
“Simply put, tenants in the province, as a group, have less of a financial reserve to draw on during periods of hardship.”
“This hardship is experienced disproportionately by lone female parents, people with disabilities, and Black and Indigenous people and people of colour,” the letter read.
“The pandemic will only continue to exacerbate these challenges.”
The advocacy groups made a list of recommendations in the letter to Premier Blaine Higgs and Minister of Service Mary Wilson.
- Introducing a two per cent cap on rental increases for existing tenants.
- Making that cap retroactive to Sept. 1, 2020.
- Re-establishing a moratorium on evictions.
- Funding a rent bank or rental subsidy program.
With the moratorium recommendation, the group hopes to have it in place until the entire province is in the green phase of COVID-19 recovery.
“It is essential that New Brunswick tenants have a secure place to live where they can limit contacts, self-isolate if necessary, and maintain their health and well-being as we weather this crisis together,” the letter read.
“A renewed moratorium on evictions would support public health efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
The rent bank recommendation calls for non-repayable grants or interest-free loans to cover rent for New Brunswickers.
“A rent bank will support the provincial government’s stated commitment to ‘timely access to affordable, safe and adequate housing options that meet individual needs and promote healthy and inclusive communities.’”
In addition, the groups call for the following actions to be taken by the end of March:
- Rolling out the Canada – New Brunswick Housing Benefit
- Establishing a New Brunswick Affordable Housing Commission
“The commission will support the implementation of the provincial housing strategy and will identify and contribute to … addressing housing challenges in the immediate post-COVID-19 context.”
The group says 36 per cent of New Brunswickers are currently living in unaffordable housing.
Global News has reached out to the province for comment but had not received a response by the time this article was published.