Summit in Saint John will be used to develop N.B.'s housing strategy

Jill Green, New Brunsick's minister responsible for housing, said everthing is still on the table, including rent caps.  (Joe McDonald/CBC - image credit)
Jill Green, New Brunsick's minister responsible for housing, said everthing is still on the table, including rent caps. (Joe McDonald/CBC - image credit)

After spending the day listening to about 160 stakeholders in Saint John on Tuesday, the province's minister responsible for housing said the information will be used to develop a housing strategy — all in six weeks, including any necessary funding.

It's a tall order, said Jill Green.

"It's a little bit terrifying to think about all the work that has to happen over the next six weeks to get this strategy in place," she said at a news conference after the summit, which was closed to reporters.

As for having the funding approved by cabinet in time for the release of the strategy, Green said, "I'm going to do my darndest, yes."

Green said about 160 stakeholders were invited to the full-day, all-in-one-room session on Tuesday.

It's a followup to a half-day session in February, where participants were invited to share their housing needs. Tuesday's session was supposed to collect ideas for the province's housing strategy, a roadmap to improve the current housing woes.

'Everything is on the table'

Green said nothing has been written so far and "everything is on the table right now until it's not on the table anymore," and that includes rent caps.

But "rent cap is one tiny piece of the housing spectrum, a very small piece," she said. "So we're looking for big and bold and innovative solutions."

Kit Hickey, the Housing Alternatives Inc. executive director, said rent caps "need to be considered."

Although, she said, "we know historically rent caps have not been tremendously successful."

Green said the strategy "will be a fluid document updated every two years and evaluated annually to ensure it appropriately reflects our current housing trends, challenges and required actions."

Municipalities have to approve the 'right mix'

Ken Forrest, the director of planning and growth for the City of Fredericton, said, "Housing is such an important precondition for a lot of the ways that we want to be successful as a province."

Forrest said it's up to municipalities to ensure "the right mix of housing so that there's the right home for everyone."

Tuesday's session included builders, developers, non-profits, federal government representatives, educators, students, and other groups with an interest in the topic.

"All these people are impacted by housing," Green said. "They have something to contribute and they have ideas about how to be innovative and think about solutions for New Brunswick."

One contribution, in particular, stuck with Green.

She said one speaker talked about "a vision for the future and about how it's better to be bold and fail than be cautious and do the same thing over and over again and not have success."

CBC News file photo
CBC News file photo

Hickey said the biggest challenge is an inadequate supply of affordable housing.

As a non-profit, she said, her organization usually can't compete for existing real estate.

She said her group was "able to move fairly quickly and picked up a couple of apartment buildings ourselves that we were able to maintain the affordability for those living there.

"And that was without government funding. But it was a challenge, it was very difficult for us to do that."