Fredericton affordable housing strategy gets preliminary green light

Click to play video: 'Fredericton’s affordable housing strategy closer to becoming reality'
Fredericton’s affordable housing strategy closer to becoming reality
Fredericton’s affordable housing strategy is a step closer to reality. The strategy has received support from two committees and will not move to council to be approved for a one-year implementation. Nathalie Sturgeon reports. – Jun 7, 2022

The municipal affordable housing strategy in Fredericton has reached the next stage.

After seeking public feedback through an online survey, the council updated the plan after it was released in early May.

The draft plan, which has now been sent to council for a one-year implementation plan, had 13 recommendations including adding a dedicated capacity for housing within the municipality, reducing legislative red tape for funding of affordable housing, the creation of the municipal housing entity, and more support toward community housing projects and organizations.

It was informed by several assessments. In 2021, the city released its housing needs assessment, which outlined the city’s need for about 2,500 affordable housing units, and roughly 1,500 subsidized units.

Committee response

For the most part, councillors on the economic vitality committee were pleased with the updated plan, voting unanimously to send it to council on Tuesday. It has already been given the green light by the affordable housing committee.

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Ward 6 Coun. Eric Magarity told the committee housing is a human right.

“I think we understand now that we need a place in solving this,” he said on Tuesday.

Coun. Ruth Breen said the council also needs to consider people’s incomes and how those have not been adjusted to the continued changes in the cost of living and the cost of housing.

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Coun. Bruce Grandy said he was pleased with the updated plan but disappointed in the number of respondents, asking them to be broken down by stakeholder versus resident.

He also said he believed the creation of a housing officer for the city would be helpful to dedicate their time exclusively to housing, an idea supported by Coun. Jocelyn Pike.

Ward 11 Coun. Jason LeJeune, who sits as the chair of the economic vitality committee, was also pleased with the report.

“I think the thing that impresses me the most about the strategy is the breadth of it,” he said in an interview on Tuesday. “It was a very comprehensive strategy that looked at all the aspects that the municipality could play.

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“To use an old cliche, we tried not to leave any stones unturned. So, that really impressed me about it today.”

He said the vote today does allow for council to consider a one-year implementation plan and have some of goals included in the budget for 2023.

“It ramps up in the fall,” he said. “We’ve got some actionable items that we can implement quickly.”

Creating housing entity

One of the bigger recommendations was the possible creation of a municipal housing entity. It would allow the municipal government to step up and creating quality affordable housing stock and essentially become the landlord.

LeJeune was asked whether he supported that idea.

Ken Forrest and Jason LeJeune oversaw the presentation of the updated Fredericton affordable housing strategy. Nathalie Sturgeon / Global News

“I don’t know if I have a position on that yet,” he said. “The other thing, too, is we haven’t really looked at any kind of business case of what that might look like. It’s very loose at this stage.

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“I’m sure that staff will come back to council at some point with an idea, with a more clear vision of what a housing entity would look like. Right now, in terms of the Fredericton Housing Strategy, it’s not very clearly defined what it could look like.”

However, that idea isn’t new to New Brunswick.

In 2020, Moncton City Council approved the Rising Tides Community Initiative. It was $6 million over a three year period to build 125 affordable units.

“Before establishing a housing entity, several variables should be considered including funding, structure, powers, and eligible activities,” the report said. “Governments should identify the relationship a housing entity will have to municipal government and where the organization should be placed.”

The council in Fredericton will look at the updated plan in June, according to the city’s website.

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