City Motel affordable housing project on thin ice

·3 min read
The John Howard Society had applied for funding through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to transform the City Motel into numerous housing units. (Photo: Gary Moore/CBC News - image credit)
The John Howard Society had applied for funding through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to transform the City Motel into numerous housing units. (Photo: Gary Moore/CBC News - image credit)

After the rejection of zoning for a downtown assisted living facility, another project to provide housing for Fredericton's homeless people may also be on thin ice.

The John Howard Society had applied for funding through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to transform the City Motel into numerous housing units.

The project would include 20 affordable housing units, 12 peer-supported units and a 24-bed emergency homeless shelter.

But their application for funding has been rejected by CMHC, leaving a $2.9 million gap.

Project manager Jason Lejeune said the setback is frustrating, but they are hoping the province and the city will step up to help fund the project.

"Our perspective on it is it's a broad community initiative with broad community support," said Lejeune.

"It's a key piece of infrastructure for the city and the province to help us mitigate this issue and the funding gap seems like something that's manageable for the province and city to undertake."

Under the gun

There is very little time for a decision on whether the two levels of government could cost share the needed money.

"Some of the $1.25 million that we have raised from various stakeholders expires on March 31," said Lejeune.

"We need to get some certainty from the province and the city of Fredericton that this is going to happen."

Lejeune said talks between the group and the city and province have been positive, and they already have a verbal commitment from the province, so they're just waiting for the city to come aboard.

Project manager Jason Lejeune said the setback is frustrating but they are hoping the province and the city will step up to help fund the project.
Project manager Jason Lejeune said the setback is frustrating but they are hoping the province and the city will step up to help fund the project.(CBC News)

He said the city had a balanced 2021 budget before it received COVID relief money from the federal government.

"We're requesting a portion of the federal money that they got subsequent to their balancing the budget," said Lejeune.

"With the escalation of homelessness and addiction and vulnerable people living rough in Fredericton, this really gives us an opportunity to jump our community plan ahead five to 10 years. We can get 35 to 40 people housed in one fell swoop with all of those wraparound services that are required for them to transition to wellness."

Phoenix project

Lejeune said he wouldn't speculate on what the rejection of a rezoning application for the Phoenix Learning Centre by the planning and advisory committee might mean for the City Motel project, but said both projects work in tandem.

"The Phoenix Learning Centre needs the City Motel to happen, that's been expressed by Dr Davidson to many folks in the community," said Lejeune.

"We need to build capacity for Dr. Davidson to do her work and part of building that capacity is to create the large tracts of housing that we need to house different populations."

Lejeune said they're not looking for operational funding for the project, just a one time grant, which should make it a more attractive investment for the city.

He said the decision on the COVID recovery money seems to be on whether to spend it on the Officers' Square project or the City Motel.

"In that COVID restart money, there was $1.4 million designated in the staff report as being put into capital reserve for Officers' Square," said Lejeune.

"There seems to be still a lot of conversation about Officers' Square. So we're just asking them to not put that in the capital reserve and to grant that capital to us."

Lejeune said council will vote on a motion to provide funding for the project Monday. The city has yet to post the council agenda on its website.