Moncton's Rising Tide is preparing to open a 21-unit affordable housing building in downtown, and the organization says its other buildings are either full or mostly occupied.
"We're ready to start moving people in here this week," Dale Hicks, Rising Tide's president, said in an interview.
The three-storey building brings the total number of units completed by the non-profit to 65 across four properties.
The building is Rising Tide's first fully new build. Other properties it has purchased were renovated.
Hicks said it cost about $3 million, the most of any of the four, because it was new construction and designed to accommodate solar panels, though those have not been installed. The building has 15 bachelor units and six one-bedroom units that come with basic furniture.
While it was expected to be completed months ago to meet a federal funding deadline, Hicks said work was delayed by supply chain problems and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of the building's tenants will come from what's known as the by-name list, a comprehensive list of homeless people in the Moncton area.
The province has agreed to provide rent supplements for 20 years, Hicks said. The monthly rent tenants will pay will depend on their income.
Hicks said two other buildings in Moncton, one with seven units in partnership with Harvest House and another with nine in partnership with YWCA Moncton, are fully occupied.
A 28-unit building in Dieppe in partnership with Crossroads for Women was completed earlier this year and has about three or four vacant units, Hicks said.
So far, Hicks said, they have evicted two people from Rising Tide buildings because they were breaking rules. He referred to issues around too many people being let into the building and safety concerns. He said on-site security was temporarily put in place.
"Sometimes clients maybe aren't quite ready to to be housed, I guess," Hicks said.
"And we work with them as best we can and sometimes we have to make some decisions in the best interest of the rest of the clients in the building. So that's unfortunate."
He said Rising Tide is aiming to have a mix of what's known has higher- and lower-acuity residents in the new building. Those with a higher acuity need more support services.
"You've got to make sure that you got a proper mix in the building to give everybody the best opportunity to succeed and stay housed," Hicks said.
The comments echo those from John Wishart, the president of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Moncton. In March, he provided an update to city councillors on the chamber's task force on downtown safety and homelessness.
"One of the key things we need to figure out is, of the 130, 135 [people] on what's called the by-names list, how many of those are going to be ending up in Rising Tide units?" Wishart said.
"Are they the high-acuity people? The mid-acuity, or the low-acuity? Obviously you can't put the 20 toughest cases in one building. So you need that balance, that mix."
On May 16, Moncton council voted unanimously and without public debate to release a $2 million payment to Rising Tide, the second of three payments it committed to make.
The city's affordable housing strategy approved by council in 2019 called for exploring the creation of a housing authority. That led to Hicks, president of Food Depot Alimentaire, Debbie McInnis with the United Way and Joanne Murray with the John Howard Society to co-found Rising Tide to serve as a housing entity.
Councillors voted to financially back Rising Tide in the fall of 2020, despite housing being a provincial responsibility, saying action was required to address the growing number of people living in emergency shelters and in tents. Funding announcements from the province and federal government followed.
The non-profit's first year saw slow progress. Representatives told council and said in interviews that it expected the first tenants to move in by Labour Day last year, though this didn't happen until earlier this year. In early March, Hicks said only nine units were occupied.
Hicks said supply chain problems affected the timelines for opening buildings. He said an elevator for the new 21-unit building with accessible units on each floor was ordered last November but only arrived toward the end of June.
Next, Hicks said, comes a new 16-unit building elsewhere in downtown Moncton in partnership with Harvest House. Other properties elsewhere in the city are under renovation, he said.
Rising Tide recently pitched a plan to the province to construct a new building on land it owns in central Moncton that would include a medical clinic, potentially in partnership with the Salvus Clinic. The clinic operates downtown and provides health care to homeless people and sex-trade workers.
Hicks said the goal would be to have medical support services on-site for high-acuity residents, those considered the hardest to house. But he said it would need additional funding, estimating the cost at around $8 million.