New Brunswick to start drafting provincial housing strategy

Click to play video: 'N.B. government and stakeholders meet to work on housing strategy'
N.B. government and stakeholders meet to work on housing strategy
WATCH: Key players in New Brunswick’s housing sector met with government officials in Saint John. They’re hoping to come up with a strategy to address the housing crisis. But as Robert Lothian reports, it’s a month away from the strategy’s release date and nothing has been finalized. – May 2, 2023

Only a month out from the release of a provincial housing strategy, the New Brunswick government hasn’t committed to any specific recommendations, according to the minister responsible.

On Tuesday, Jill Green spoke with reporters in Saint John, N.B., during a break of the provincial Housing Summit, focused on crafting solutions for the sector.

Attended by at least 160 housing stakeholders, the summit included representatives from community groups, non-profit organizations and the public and private sectors.

“Are we going to get it 100 per cent right in eight weeks’ time, or six weeks’ time? No. The good news is this is going to be a fluid document that we are going to go back to, we’re going to make changes,” said Green, the minister responsible for housing.

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In February, the province hosted a virtual housing summit with stakeholders to discuss possible solutions for the housing crisis.

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick re-establishing its housing corporation'
New Brunswick re-establishing its housing corporation

On Tuesday, Green stated the “building” crisis within the sector over the last 30 years will require more than a quick fix.

“We’re going to see challenging numbers and scary things, and we have got to be bold and find some great solutions for New Brunswick,” Green said.

The minister couldn’t provide examples of stakeholder-suggested solutions, saying that portion of the summit was left for later in the day. Media organizations we’re not allowed to attend the summit.

Outside the summit, members of ACORN protested for a rent cap, among other tenant protections. The province scrapped a temporary 3.8 per cent rent cap at the end of 2022.

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Without a cap, tenants must apply to the Residential Tenancies Tribunal for any rent increase they believe is unreasonable.

Green noted for rent increases above the consumer price index, they will work with tenants by offering financial support.

“We’re working on the numbers right now, we’re still in the middle of the evaluation process. It’s not a significant amount of money,” Green added.

Despite several questions from reporters on whether the province will commit to re-instating the rent cap, Green remained non-committal.

“One thing is not going to fix the problem that we have.”

“Rent cap is one tiny piece of the housing spectrum, a very small piece, so we’re looking for big and bold, and innovative solutions.”

Kit Hickey, the executive director of Housing Alternatives Inc. and a stakeholder at the summit, told reporters that historically rent caps have not been overly successful, but in these circumstances, action is needed.

“Inadequate supply of affordable housing is our biggest challenge today. Until we get that adequate supply on the ground, what is it that we do,” Hickey said. “Is there a place for rent caps? I think it’s something that certainly needs to be considered.”

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As the province approaches the plan’s release in June, Green stated there would be a challenge in balancing the needs across New Brunswick. After the strategy has been rolled out, the province plans to update it every two years to reflect any changes to the provincial housing demand.

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