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New Brunswick housing advocates blast government survey

Click to play video: 'Advocacy group says N.B. government out of step with priorities in housing crisis' Advocacy group says N.B. government out of step with priorities in housing crisis
WATCH: A New Brunswick tenants’ advocacy group has been left dumbfounded by the government’s decision to ask residents to rank vulnerable populations and their need for affordable housing. Nathalie Sturgeon has the story – Jul 5, 2021

The New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants Rights said it is baffled by the survey put out by the Department of Social Development on affordable housing.

The survey, which has since been removed, asked New Brunswickers to rank which vulnerable populations deserved housing more. Among the list were the homeless, Indigenous communities, low-income families, and people with disabilities.

“The survey was mindbogglingly inappropriate,” said Aditya Rao, an organizer with NBCTR.

“The question you saw yourself asked respondents to effectively rank people as being more or less deserving or in need of housing and pit people against each other in that way.”

Read more: N.B. rental review recommends increasing housing supply, reviewing tenancy act

When the survey went out, Rao said there were even spelling mistakes in the survey. He said the government later fixed those before removing it entirely.

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Rao believes this was a version eventually meant for publication.

However, the Department of Social Development said it was sent in error.

“Once it was discovered, the survey was deactivated and the news release removed from the website,” said spokesperson Jeremy Trevors.

Read more: The affordable housing crisis in New Brunswick and the calls for action: ‘No more blame game’

“The survey was a tool being used to help with the development of the 2022-2025 New Brunswick Action Plan, which is a requirement under the 2018-2028 Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation New Brunswick Bilateral Agreement, and outlines how the province will use cost-matched funding to achieve targets and outcomes specific to housing and homelessness programming,” he added.

Trevors said the department is committed to having further public consultation.

Not much progress

However, Rao isn’t taking too much stock in that. He said there has been little progress on the 12 recommendations out of the 90-day review.

The province undertook the review in late February.

The recommendations spread over four broad categories: strengthening existing services; increasing rental supply; a review of tenancy legislation; and increasing human resources in the construction industry.

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Absent from the recommendations is rent control, a major ask of many tenant organizations in the province.

Read more: Affordable housing advocates call on HRM to create social housing strategy

While the report notes in its opening pages that the province is “not currently in a housing crisis,” it paints a dire picture of how many are being failed by the current system. Along with a jurisdictional scan, civil servants spoke to over 4,000 tenants and 1,000 landlords and developers.

Rao said rents continue to soar, and he gets calls from tenants every second day with issues. In New Brunswick, tenants have very little protection or legislation for their rights, he said.

Read more: N.B. housing boom sees house prices climb 30% in 2021

“That’s the wild west out there,” he said in an interview Monday. “That’s not how you guarantee the right to affordable housing, that’s not how guarantee the right to adequate housing, and it’s certainly not how you address a housing crisis.”

Rao said the group is struggling to understand the government’s action on the housing file.

“It’s mindboggling what’s happening at the provincial level with the housing file. We’re struggling to understand, you know, what the government seems to think is a priority.”

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