Lack of housing in rural N.B. contributing to labour shortages: economist

Click to play video: 'Labour shortages worsened by housing crisis in rural New Brunswick' Labour shortages worsened by housing crisis in rural New Brunswick
A New Brunswick economist is saying the labour shortages plaguing businesses are being exacerbated by the housing crisis, particularly in rural areas – Feb 8, 2022

Record-breaking immigration numbers aren’t enough to keep up with the effect of retiring baby boomers on New Brunswick’s workforce, according to Moncton-based economist Richard Saillant.

In an interview on Tuesday, he explained that each year, there are more New Brunswickers reaching retirement age than those reaching the age where they can legally work.

“The welcoming of newcomers allows us to staunch the bleeding so we’re not losing our labour force anymore but we’re still in deficit when it comes to meeting our needs.”

According to data from Statistics Canada, New Brunswick welcomed almost 13,000 newcomers last year, in part due to interprovincial migration driven by steep housing prices in Ontario, as well as international immigration.

Saillant said the most pressing issue for New Brunswick to be able to attract more people is housing.

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“It’s not just an urban issue, it’s a provincewide issue and it’s the single most important bottleneck, I would say, across the province but particularly in rural areas.”

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

In an interview on Tuesday, Dan Murphy, executive director of the Union of the Municipalities of New Brunswick, said the lack of rental options in smaller areas makes it difficult to attract newcomers.

“One of the challenges is there’s just not a lot of rental housing in New Brunswick. So if you’re moving to a community for a job, you know your options aren’t great for renting,” he said, adding that purchasing a house was often out of reach for newcomers.

In a written statement sent to Global News on Tuesday afternoon, a spokesperson for the province said, “Since rental markets are often weak or non-existent in rural areas, home ownership can sometimes be a more viable option than obtaining affordable rental housing.”

“For this reason, there is a significant need in New Brunswick to fund major repairs of owned, inadequate dwellings in low-income rural areas,” they said, adding that the Department of Social Development is working with various stakeholders to “fund innovative housing initiatives to help those experiencing homelessness in rural areas. ”

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Murphy, who has previously served as executive director of the New Brunswick Non Profit Housing Association, said the lack of rental options in rural areas also caused problems for existing residents, like seniors looking to downsize. He said the lack of development in rural areas was causing rural municipalities to try to find their own solutions.

“The development of housing hasn’t been something that traditionally municipalities have been involved in directly but it’s something they’re looking to get more and more involved in.”

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