Abbey St. Andrews

The Affordable Rental Housing Program is largely responsible for, among others, the Abbey St Andrew mixed development building on Charlotte Street. (John Van Dusen/CBC)

A soon-to-expire federal-provincial program has brought a boom in mixed income housing developments to Saint John over the past three or four years.

The Affordable Rental Housing Program is largely responsible for hundreds of mixed income units built in the city, including the Abbey St. Andrew development on Charlotte Street, and Father Eugene O'Leary seniors complex on Loch Lomond Road.

There have also been expansions to two city housing co-ops, and another development, Vimy Estates, is on the books for the city's north end. It will be a private development with market rent apartments alongside government subsidized units.

'It has been probably one of the most successful programs across the country.' - Bishop Robert Harris, diocese of Saint John

On top of that, the Roman Catholic diocese of Saint John wants to put mixed income housing into the long vacant St. Vincent's High School on Cliff Steet. 

Bishop Robert Harris said he wants to make good use of the building, which belongs to the diocese.

"We want to make sure it can help with the housing need, that it can bring people back into the centre of town and add a few more people to the block here," said Harris.

"And that would be a good situation, I think, for everybody."

New deal under negotiation

Kit Hickey, the executive director of the non-profit housing group, Housing Alternatives, said the rental housing program is "very, very effective." It is funded by a cost-sharing arrangement between the federal and provincial governments.

"With the combination of capital grant and rent supplement units it has been probably one of the most successful programs across the country," Hickey said.

The two governments are now negotiating another five-year deal before the program expires in March. Hickey said a new deal is all but assured.

Advocates for mixed income housing say it will continue to generate development because there are so many substandard apartments in the city.

To be eligible for assistance under the Affordable Rental Housing Program, housing proposals must create new affordable housing units for low and moderate income New Brunswickers.

Assistance is in the form of a forgivable loan and is based on the cost of eligible work and the number of eligible self-contained units or bed units within a project.

Successful applicants then enter into a mortgage agreement with the New Brunswick Housing Corporation, so that units remain affordable to low and moderate income households.