N.B. revives housing corporation for ‘horsepower’ to address homes crisis

Click to play video: 'Advocates weigh in on New Brunswick housing corporation'
Advocates weigh in on New Brunswick housing corporation
WATCH: The renewal of the housing corporation in New Brunswick is drawing mixed reaction from advocacy groups. While some say it’s positive news, others say it's just window dressing for an issue the government continues to ignore. Nathalie Sturgeon has that story. – Mar 3, 2023

The New Brunswick government is reviving its housing corporation.

Jill Green, the minister responsible for housing, said it’s become clear to her the province needs one place for those involved in building solutions for the housing crisis.

“It’s bringing them together under one roof … so we have some horsepower behind solving the housing crisis,” she said, answering questions from reporters on Thursday.

Green said the renewal legislation will be brought to the house in the spring sitting and hopefully will receive Royal Assent in June, but until then, there is no firm idea about what the housing corporation’s budget might look like.

“We are working through exactly what it looks like for the leadership team and exactly what it looks like financially, and I will be available to answer questions as we move forward,” she said.

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Fifteen positions will be created to help the organization function. The corporation was first introduced back in the late 1960s, but would later be abolished.

Fredericton Mayor Kate Rogers said the housing corporation was incredibly successful in the 1970s and 1980s and she hopes this renewal will allow that success to continue.

“It will be very helpful to have one entry point with our partners at the provincial government,” she said. “I think it … will coordinate the way that we function, the way that we work together.”

Rogers said there is a deficit of people who work directly in the affordable housing sector.

The New Brunswick Housing Corporation will bring all stakeholders, government, and the public under one roof to deal with the housing crisis. Nathalie Sturgeon / Global News

“I think everyone needs to think outside the box about what those rules look like and what skill sets are required to do that work,” she said.

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Alex Leblanc of the Housing Hub of New Brunswick said the revived housing corporation is a solution that fits the urgency of the situation.

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“Having a single partner in government and a more streamlined, accelerated process to support development partners outside of government, non-profit, co-ops, municipalities, other groups that want to develop is going to be key,” he said on Thursday.

New Brunswick Green Party Leader David Coon applauded Green for her work to bring the corporation back. Coon and his colleagues have been calling for the corporation’s revival for a while.

He said he is hoping for a budget that is robust enough to match the needs in the province.

“We’re really behind the eight ball. The supply of affordable housing is so poor, the need is so great. So it’s going to have to be substantial financing available,” he said.

Advocates weigh in

Haley Flaro, the executive director of Ability New Brunswick, has worked with clients who have disabilities for nearly 25 years and is no stranger to the need for affordable housing in the province.

She is applauding the renewal of the housing corporation.

“What I see is this taking a lot of the housing initiatives, programs, benefits, the tribunal, under one roof to provide more consistent support programs (and) services and strategy around housing in New Brunswick,” she said.

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Flaro said it can be challenging to navigate all the different departments and levels of government that have a hand in the housing file.

In particular, she said there is a big disconnect between the federal and provincial governments.

“It’s a really unfortunate situation where there is significant investment happening that could be even more targeted and strategic if it were to be overseen by the provincial government and its stakeholders,” she said of federal housing funding.

She thinks the corporation could serve to make that connection and streamline it for those looking to access it.

When its mandate begins, Flaro wants the corporation to tackle creating neighbourhoods with housing for various income levels and accessibility needs.

But for others, the creation of the housing corporation stops short of what is really needed now — permanent rent and vacancy control.

“The thing about this government is they’ve ignored the affordable housing crisis for so long until it hit them in the face and they’ve been struggling since then to try to appear like they are doing something,” said Matthew Hayes, who is with the NB Coalition for Tenants Rights.

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He said that since the housing study by the government was done in 2021, the list for social housing has doubled, and added that tenants remain afraid of looming rent hikes in the absence of a cap on those increases.

“What needs to happen here is rent control,” he said. “We need to regulate the market.”

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