New Brunswick

Let's count the rooming houses in Fredericton, councillor says

A Fredericton councillor says the city has to take stock of rooming houses to make sure they meet acceptable standards to keep residents safe.

Coun. Bruce Grandy wants to put together formal list to make sure rooming houses are safe

The city is hoping to identify the number of rooming houses in Fredericton to make sure they are safe and up to standard. (Redmond Shannon/CBC)

A Fredericton councillor says the city has to take stock of rooming houses to make sure they meet acceptable standards to keep residents safe.

"We're concerned for the safety and the code issues," Coun. Bruce Grandy said Monday. 

Although the city has a vague idea of where some rooming houses are located, he said it doesn't have an exact number.

Coun. Bruce Grandy, says the City of Fredericton needs to find out how many rooming houses are in Fredericton to help it identify the number of homeless people in the city. (CBC)

"It's a very grey area to us," said Grandy, who's also chair of the development committee.

An inventory would help the city better understand where rooming houses should be located and how many people are homeless in the New Brunswick capital.

Grandy said rooming houses used to be covered in the city's zoning bylaw, which he hopes will be updated.

"For some reason, I don't know what it was, it got taken out of the bylaw," he said.

Fredericton's homeless 

Dorothy Shephard, New Brunswick's social development minister, has said the province shouldn't be carrying the burden of looking after homeless people. Cities also have a role to play, she said.

While it's the province's role to handle the financing of shelters and organizational matters, Shephard said, it is the municipality's responsibility to bring community support groups together and find potential locations for shelters.

We need to work with government to ensure we all play on the same playing field, that we all understand our responsibilities and we work together as a team.- Bruce Grandy , Fredericton councillor

Fredericton seemed ready to let an out-of-the-cold shelter close at the end of March, but at the last minute, the planning advisory committee approved a one-month extension.   

Grandy said he understands a lack of affordable housing and low vacancy rates have contributed to homelessness in the city. 

But he said the province and city have to sit down together to discuss legislation.

"We need to work with government to ensure we all play on the same playing field, that we all understand our responsibilities and we work together as a team," he said.

Now what?

Although he doesn't have a firm timeline in place, Grandy hopes city staff will study rooming houses in Fredericton, as well as best practices in cities such as Ottawa, where new rules were put in place. 

A winter shelter in the former bishop's house in Fredericton will continue to run until the end of April. (Philip Drost/CBC)

He said the city will be doing this with the help of Housing First Fredericton, a group trying to eliminate homelessness by building eight micro-houses.

"It's not about finding out totally where they are," he said of rooming houses.

"It's about looking and setting the standards, and setting policy, and what they should be, what they should look like, and where they should go in the community."

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