New Brunswick

Run-down Public Housing units need repairs, says advocacy group

The Common Front for Social Justice is calling on the provincial government to direct more funding toward maintenance of Public Housing units.

Common Front for Social Justice calls on provincial government to allocate more money to maintenance

Ashley Katzel-Leblanc says the Public Housing apartment she shares with her four young children has been in need of repairs for two years. (CBC)

The Common Front for Social Justice is calling on the provincial government to direct more funding toward maintenance of Public Housing units.

It comes after complaints from Ashley Katzel-Leblanc, who lives in a subsidized triplex on Sumac Street in Moncton.

The mother of four young children says after two years of living in the apartment, some problems still haven't been repaired, even though she says she has contacted Public Housing several times.

I feel like we're treated as if we're lower than everybody else.- Ashley Katzel-Leblanc

The railing on the stairs isn't attached to the wall properly, there is no working smoke detector on the second floor, and the living room window doesn't close without someone going outside and pushing on it, said Katzel-Leblanc.

"I feel like we're treated as if we're lower than everybody else," she said.

​Chantal Landry, provincial secretary for the Common Front for Social Justice, says stories of Public Housing units with maintenance problems are not unusual.

"Just because people are on social assistance doesn't mean that they should have below standard housing," Landry said.

"They have every right to the same standard of housing as anybody else."

Social Development Minister Cathy Rogers was unavailable for an interview however a spokesperson said all tenants of Public Housing units take part in an inspection before moving in.

"This inspection reveals all deficiencies and they are documented … If any deficiencies are identified, staff address and resolve the issues as soon as possible," according to a statement from the Department of Social Development.

Advocates hopeful new budgets will bring relief

Earlier this week, New Brunswick's Finance Minister Roger Melanson welcomed new money for social and affordable housing in the Trudeau government's first budget.

The 2016 budget tabled on Tuesday included $120 billion for new and existing infrastructure over 10 years, with the first phase focusing on affordable housing, public transit, water and wastewater systems.

Melanson said coupled with money for public housing in the provincial budget, he is confident it will make a difference.

Finance Minister Roger Melanson welcomes infrastructure money from Ottawa to improve social housing, admitting it has been neglected in New Brunswick because of a lack of funds. (CBC)
"The housing we have in place today has been neglected for lack of funds," said Melanson.

"There's some repairs, there's some rehabilitation of this housing that needs to happen."

Tim Ross, executive director of the New Brunswick Non-Profit Housing Association, says the new commitments from the federal government are significant.

"But it's going to take a lot of work and a lot of partnerships locally to turn those dollar-commitments into homes and opportunities for our neighbours who require and could benefit from affordable housing," Ross told CBC's Information Morning Fredericton on Thursday.

Ross says it will take time to build new and renovate existing social housing, although he hopes to see new affordable units built in New Brunswick this year.

"If you don't have a safe, affordable place to call home, then it's hard to find and keep a job, it's hard to raise a family, it's hard to get healthy," he said.

Landry is also hopeful after both the provincial and federal budgets made promises for increased affordable housing.

"It would be great that there'd be more housing, but clearly there's a need for some of the housing to be fixed and some of it to get a good overhaul, so we're hoping that some money will go towards that."

With files from Tori Weldon


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