New Brunswick

Homeless advocacy groups try to recruit landlords for affordable housing

About 80 people sleep in Fredericton shelters every night, while 18 affordable housing subsidies from the Department of Social Development sit unused because there are no available units.

Rent subsidies sit unused despite affordable housing demand in Fredericton

Faith McFarland said there is a lack information about the rent subsidy program that could really help landlords who want to offer affordable housing to people trying to get out of homelessness. (Joe McDonald/CBC)

About 80 people sleep in Fredericton shelters every night, while 18 affordable housing subsidies from the Department of Social Development sit unused because there are no available units. 

The province's rent supplement assistance program offers landlords the difference of the agreed upon market rent after the tenant has paid 30 per cent of their household income. 

"I think that one of the barriers is a lack of information," said Faith MacFarland, community development co-ordinator for the Fredericton Community Action Group Against Homelessness.

McFarland said she's seen an increase in the number of people living on the street and the only solution is to find and support affordable housing. (CBC)

McFarland said that on average, a one-bedroom apartment in Fredericton costs $710 a month — much more than someone on social assistance, which is $537 a month, can afford.

But she hopes to educate landlords on the facts of the program — that 30 per cent of the rent comes from the tenant's income, and the rest is a guaranteed direct deposit in the landlord's account. Some damage is covered, as well as some vacancies, such as a vacancy created by an eviction.

Dave MacLean, communications director with the Department of Social Development, said there are 4,300 rent supplements in use throughout the province. 

He said 18 new subsides have been made available in Fredericton. Some have been allocated, meaning potential tenants have been identified but there are no units to move into.

MacLean said 15 of the subsidies are for users of the out-of-the-cold shelter which will close at the end of March. 

'They are poor'

Warren Maddox, the executive director of Fredericton Homeless Shelters Inc., said that Fredericton's four per cent vacancy rate is a problem, but the stigma associated with homelessness doesn't help.

"I think that there is a consensus that they're all suffering from mental health issues or addiction," he said. "That's not the case. 

"Fifty per cent of the people at the shelters may have an addiction or a minor mental health problems but  [the other] 30 per cent, there is nothing wrong with them other than they are poor."

An emergency winter shelter set up in December is only a Band-Aid solution, McFarland said. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

MacFarland pointed to support systems for people transitioning from homelessness to being a tenant as another benefit, like intensive case management.

Intensive case management, for example, is a mobile support network for people who are leaving homelessness, said MacFarland. A worker would come to the tenant's home and act as a mediator for anything housing-related.

"The whole objective of that service is to ensure that tenancy works," she said.

Warren Maddox, executive director of Fredericton Homeless Shelters Inc., said there are many challenges to affordable housing, including a low vacancy rate and a stigma around people who are homeless. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

Collpitts Development is one landlord in the city that offers affordable housing.

"I'm on the side of NB Housing," said Dave Howlett of Colpitts Development. "We're involved on most of what is going on in town. There is somebody in the company that is involved."

Howlett wouldn't discuss the number of units Colpitts has in the rent supplement assistance program but said the company offers eight more than the number it originally agreed to with the department.

He said the company would be willing to offer more when more units become available.

Landlords wanted

McFarland said she's seen an increase in street homelessness that cannot be fixed with temporary solutions.

There will be an information session for landlords Tuesday at the Crowne Plaza. Twelve have signed up so far, and MacFarland is hoping for 20.

The out-of-the-cold shelter that opened in December is to close at the end of March, she said, and those people will be back on the streets without some sort of housing help. 

"Landlords are needed partners in this work," she said.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said incorrectly that landlords will be offered 70 per cent of rent through the rent supplement assistance program. In fact, it provides the difference after the tenant pays 30 per cent of their household income.
    Feb 27, 2019 9:11 AM AT

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