The New Brunswick Government has announced $100 million to build new government-owned public housing units for the first time in nearly four decades.
At a news conference in Saint John, N.B. Monday, social development minister Dorothy Shephard revealed the province plans to build 380 new public housing units over the next four years.
Additionally, $2.2 million was announced to cover the renovation of 110 units, which currently sit unused due to their condition.
“In New Brunswick there has not been a major capital renovation or replacement plan for public housing in decades,” Shephard told a crowd that included fellow MLAs, City of Saint John officials, and housing advocates.
“In fact, the last public housing unit built and owned by the government of New Brunswick was built in 1984.”
Renovations of units are expected to be completed by the end of March, while construction of new units is slated to take four years.
Funding for housing comes amid ongoing difficulties with the increasing cost of living and a historic housing market boom.
Construction of the new units will be allocated as follows:
-40 units each in Moncton, Saint John, and Fredericton
-68 units in northern New Brunswick
-192 units in “areas of greatest need”
Randy Hatfield, executive director of the Human Development Council, said there will always be advocates who call this type of funding insufficient, adding the affordable housing file is “incredibly complex.”
“I think today’s announcement was a very solid one in terms of shoring up the stock of public housing. The province getting back into the business again of being a landlord and creating units, I think that’s a positive step forward on the part of the province, so it will make a difference,” Hatfield said.
When asked about steps to aid the province’s most vulnerable, Hatfield stated it starts with accepting investments in more shelters is not a solution to homelessness.
“(The public housing investment) will be a step in the notion of making upstream investments, and making sure people don’t fall in the river.”
Speaking to reporters, Shephard recognized the investment is not a “silver bullet,” but, along with previous investments made into housing, is a step in the right direction.
“With the waitlist, which has grown to 8,700, about 3,700 of those on the waitlist are single individuals.”
The province owns and operates 808 buildings, containing about 3,800 units, though most were built in the 1970’s.
Shephard teased more plans to address shelters and the province’s homeless population over the winter are expected in the coming days.