New report paints grim picture of affordable housing in Moncton

A new study of housing needs in Moncton has found the city in dire need of more affordable and smaller homes and apartments.

3,300 low-income families spend at least 50 per cent of their income on rent as housing gap grows

An assessment of housing needs in Moncton has found 5,367 households struggling to pay rent that exceeds 30 per cent of their income. (CBC)

A new study of housing needs in Moncton has found the city in dire need of more affordable and smaller homes and apartments.

Last year, there were 5,370 families with a household income of $26,131 or less, and they were struggling to afford housing, Kayla Breelove Carter, a community development officer with the City of Moncton, told council Monday night.

Breelove Carter, who launched the housing assessment, said it had three goals: "the reduction of homelessness on the streets and within shelters in the city, an increased supply of affordable housing, and to maintain quality safe and affordable housing throughout the city."

Kayla Breelove Carter, a community development officer with the City of Moncton, says a recent study points to a gap between the need for affordable housing and the supply. (Radio-Canada)
Johanna Hashim of SMS Consulting, who presented the study findings to council, said the population is expected to increase by 18 per cent over the next 10 years, with a shift toward smaller households.

"In 2011, one and two-person households made up almost 70 per cent of all households in Moncton, and we expect this trend to continue," Hashim said.

That, combined with an aging population and an increasing number of people with disabilities, will increase the need for smaller, accessible homes and apartments, she said.

Current housing supply not meeting demand

The study found 45 per cent of the housing supply in Moncton consists of single, detached homes, which are not ideal for smaller households, seniors or people with with disabilities.

Not just  Moncton  is dealing with the issue, the whole province is dealing with this issue.- Stephen Horsman , minister of social development

"Many of these dwellings are older and may require more upkeep, which may not be doable and may be a bit more challenging for an aging population," Hashim told councillors.

There is also a gap between supply and demand when it comes to rental properties, suggesting many of the units available for rent are not suitable for the people who need housing.

A healthy vacancy rate for rental units would be three per cent, Hashim said, while the current vacancy rate in Moncton is 6.5 per cent, which Hashim called "quite high."

She said the vacancy rate and the fact there are 1,580 people on the NB Housing list for affordable housing in Moncton, Riverview and Dieppe suggest there is a need for more affordable housing.

"The largest proportion of these applicants are singles and seniors, whereas the supply ... is geared towards families so again, there's a bit of a mismatch in terms of demand and supply of subsidized units."

Housing costs rise faster than income

Hashim said options in the private market are becoming less affordable for families with low incomes.

Between 2000 and 2010, the report found, the average house price in Moncton increased by 57 per cent, and income for the poorest citizens increased by 32.3 per cent.

Stephen Horsman, the minister of social development, says Moncton isn't the only city grappling with a shortage of affordable housing. (CBC)

"It shows that  incomes aren't quite keeping up with the increase in house prices," she said.

"To afford the average rent of $758, a household would need an annual income of $30,320."

The report concludes that the greatest need is with households that have the lowest incomes and that are spending more than 30 per cent of their income on housing.

"These households would be able to afford rents of $653 or less or house prices of $109,800," Hashim said. "These are far below the average rents and average house prices in Moncton."

Half their income goes to rent

Of the families in the lowest income bracket, nearly 50 per cent are spending at least half of their income on rent.

"That's 3,300 households in 2016," she said. "So there is definitely a gap in what people can afford and what is currently available."

Stephen Horsman, New Brunswick's Minister of Social Development, who was at Monday's meeting to hear the results of the study, said he expects the government will have a new housing strategy of its own by the end of the year.

"Not just Moncton is dealing with the issue," Horsman said. "The whole province is dealing with this issue.

"It's everybody's responsibility, not just the federal government and not just the provincial government, but municipalities have to take a part now and they're realizing it."