Moncton to vote on affordable housing, budget this week
Council to decide whether to back Rising Tide housing plan with $6 million
Moncton councillors will decide Monday whether to financially back an affordable housing plan and delve into the city's proposed 2021 budget.
Rising Tide Community Initiatives Inc. wants the city to commit $6 million over three years so the group can buy properties and turn them into 125 units of affordable housing with support services.
It wants matching funding from the province, but after almost a year that level of government hasn't reached a decision.
"Municipal and provincial funding is a must to get off the ground," Dale Hicks, one of the founders of the group, said Friday.
The pitch was developed as part of the city's affordable housing strategy, which calls for creation of a housing entity.
The city has faced calls to do more to address homelessness, affordable housing and crime.
"As leaders, we need to as a city determine what's really important and where we as council members stand on homelessness and affordable housing," Coun. Charles Leger said in an interview.
Coun. Blair Lawrence said he'd be disappointed if council opted to fund Rising Tide but the province didn't, since housing is a provincial responsibility.
"But something must be done, and soon, to mitigate the reality of homelessness in Moncton, its fallout, and the extreme lack of affordable housing," Lawrence said in an email.
If the city goes ahead with the spending, it will directly impact the proposed 2021 budget by adding $2 million in additional spending.
What's in the budget has not yet been made public. Recent presentations and votes have outlined some of the pressure the city faces to pass a balanced budget. Legally, municipalities can't run a deficit.
City councillors have already voted to spend $1.4 million on grants to dozens of cultural, immigration and social groups, an increase from 2020.
Last month, council approved privatizing the city's waste collection. Increasing costs for the service were projected to require a four cent tax rate increase in 2021. The city's tax rate is $1.6497 per $100 of assessed property value.
Multiple councillors have voiced a desire to avoid a tax rate increase as residents and businesses struggle through the pandemic.
"I'm looking for a maintained tax rate within the city, but at the same time, no cuts to services and actually an improvement, if anything," Shawn Crossman, the city's deputy mayor, said in an interview.
Projections by staff over the summer showed multimillion dollar deficits if the city's tax base stayed stagnant or grew only one per cent.
The tax base is the collective value of property, as assessed by Service New Brunswick.
The city's tax rate is then multiplied against that figure, resulting in how much tax revenue the city expects to bring in.
However, there was good news last month when the province announced the city's tax base would be $8.86 billion in 2021. That's up $149 million from 2020, or 1.72 per cent. A deficit of $1.4 million was expected if growth was only one per cent.
The city budget will also include capital spending, things like roads, equipment and vehicles.
One of the biggest upcoming capital projects is a new RCMP station on Albert Street estimated to cost about $46 million.
Design work was about 60 per cent complete as of several months ago. Leger said he expects final designs may be ready before the end of the year. Council still will need to vote to go ahead with construction.
Members of the advocacy group Grassroots NB say they will speak at Monday's meeting, calling for the city to reconsider its plans for the station.
While an overview of the city's budget will be presented Monday, the detailed discussion will start Wednesday at 9 a.m. and continue until Thursday and Friday if necessary.
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