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Fredericton to hire housing strategist as part of affordable housing implementation plan

Click to play video: 'Fredericton’s housing plan approved by council'
Fredericton’s housing plan approved by council
WATCH: Fredericton’s housing plan for the upcoming year has been approved by city council. But some say that as the housing crisis in the region worsens, the plan doesn’t go far enough. Nathalie Sturgeon reports. – Oct 19, 2022

The City of Fredericton has unveiled a one-year affordable housing implementation plan, but the New Brunswick Coalition Tenant’s Rights says it isn’t ambitious enough to handle the housing crisis.

Matthew Hayes, who is with the coalition, said the plan doesn’t have specific goals.

“So, this is a good start but it lacks the ambition that the situation calls for,” he said in an interview Monday. “Actually, I’m not sure you can call it a good start given that it lacks the ambition that the situation calls for.”

Hayes said tenants reach out to the coalition often with horrible stories of evictions and large scale rent increases many can’t afford.

The plan, which was born out of a report finalized in June 2022, looks at seven key areas the city will focus on for 2023.

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It will hire a city-specific housing strategist, seeding community housing organizations and projects, provide city-owned land for housing development, securing federal and provincial funding, look at zoning flexibility, density and inclusionary zoning and collaborate with other major cities.

Council unanimously passed a motion to adopt the one-year plan and to identify monies within the 2023 budget to implement some of them.

Hayes said the problem of housing has been left to fester, and now, it’s boiling over as a result of decisions, including tax cuts to the wealthy, made in the 90s and 2000s.

“We’re living with the consequences of that,” he said.

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick returns to building and owning public housing units'
New Brunswick returns to building and owning public housing units

In the original report, the plan did offer the option of a municipal housing entity, which is non-for-profit, publicly-owned units that are run by the city.

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So far, that option isn’t part of the plan.

“I hope that the council will revisit this as soon as possible because in the absence of it, they are not even on a playing field in the midst of a raging crisis that is destroying key elements of our community,” Hayes said.

Mayor Kate Rogers said she is pleased with the report, which she feels is easy to digest and understand.

“To me, it’s actually quite specific,” she said. “It points to some very specific actions. Of course, we could make a goal for affordable housing units, but only so much of that is within our control. This strategy and action plan are very much things the municipality can undertake and make change and bring about more affordability in housing.”

Her hope is that the housing strategist will play a critical role in helping the city better understand the needs within the city and how the municipality can provide further assistance.

Rogers said that includes the non-profit sector.

“We are looking for someone who brings a breadth of knowledge,” she said.

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Another problem both Rogers and Hayes identified is the regulation of short-term rentals. Hayes said short-term rentals, like Airbnb, VERBO, have forced many tenants out of their units and the industry isn’t regulated properly.

Rogers said regulation will be key as part of the strategy to keep increasing the available housing stock.

She said there is ongoing discussion with many of the mayors across New Brunswick and the provincial government about the specific regulation and how it might play a role in helping municipalities increase affordable units.

“If it’s going to be a business model, it needs to be regulated like other business models,” she said.

The provincial rent cap ends on Dec. 31, with no indication whether it will continue into 2023.

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