Housing assessment shows deep need for affordable units in Fredericton

·3 min read
Coun. Jason Lejeune says there is a construction boom in Fredericton, but the city is still losing affordable stock.  REUTERS/Patrick Doyle (Patrick Doyle/Reuters - image credit)
Coun. Jason Lejeune says there is a construction boom in Fredericton, but the city is still losing affordable stock. REUTERS/Patrick Doyle (Patrick Doyle/Reuters - image credit)

A report looking at housing availability in Fredericton has found gaps in the city's stock and a sharp decline in affordability over the past five years, with many respondents saying they may leave the city.

The housing needs assessment, conducted by Turner Drake Consulting, found the city needs about 2,500 affordable housing units and 1,500 subsidized units, as well as at least 50 emergency shelter spaces.

"There's a deep need there and the challenge becomes how do you not just move forward from this point, but deal with what's behind you?" said Coun. Jason Lejeune, chair of the city's economic vitality committee.

"It's going to call for some real intention and action developing hundreds of affordable housing units."

The report also found that many people living on single incomes and low-incomes can't reasonably afford any type of unit.

"There's a real recognition in this report that incomes have failed to keep up with rents, and that the private-market sector does not build sufficient affordable housing," said Matthew Hayes, spokesperson for the New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants Rights.

In the first half of this year, construction started on 340 apartment and townhouse units in Fredericton, a record in the city.

But despite a "building boom," Lejeune said the city is continually seeing the loss of affordable units.

"We have a net reduction every year of designated affordable housing units," he said.

Hayes said the affordable stock isn't increasing because there is so much demand for market housing, and as rents escalate, what was affordable is disappearing.

"And that speaks to the way that inequality is reshaping our community," Hayes said.

Ken Forrest, director of growth and community services for the city, said Fredericton is exceeding 1,000 new residents a year, also putting a strain on the housing supply. But people who can afford market rents, he said, have no problem finding a place to live.

"The challenge really is for those people that either, they're working but don't have the income to afford home ownership or market rental solutions," Forrest said.

Catherine Harrop/CBC
Catherine Harrop/CBC

More than 350 people responded to the survey that was conducted in the spring, and a third of them said the lack of housing options has made them consider leaving the city.

The city will use the information in the assessment to create a housing strategy.

"What I'm hoping for is that there's going to be some commentary around what a non-market solution could look like and what is in the laneway of the municipality," said Lejeune.

"How can we participate in partnership and collaboration with our federal and provincial partners to change outcomes?"

Hayes said the city has its work cut out for it.

"The new council has laid out an ambitious agenda for itself," he said. "I think they demonstrate that they recognize there needs to be more inclusionary zoning, there needs to be an inclusion of affordable units in new builds."

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