New Brunswick

'I don't want anyone to go': Fredericton landlord must evict up to 6 tenants

A zoning change to allow more people to live in a downtown Fredericton rooming house was denied by city council Monday night.

Council rejects bylaw change that would have allowed increase in number of people living in rooming house

Owner Keith Young has had up to 14 people staying at his downtown Fredericton rooming house, but the city zoning bylaw allows only eight. (Philip Drost/CBC News)

A zoning change to allow more people to live in a downtown Fredericton rooming house was denied by city council Monday night.

In April, Keith Young asked for an amendment that would have allowed 12 people to stay in his rooming house at 244 and 246 Charlotte St. instead of the eight permitted under the zoning bylaw. 

On Monday, all but one councillor in attendance voted against the proposed amendment. The planning advisory committee and city staff both recommended rejecting the change.

Coun. John MacDermid said the decision wasn't a case of questioning whether rooming houses are appropriate. 

"I think it's a question of, is it appropriate for this particular neighbourhood, and what guidance do we have to make that determination?" MacDermid said. 

Coun. John MacDermid voted against the amendment that would have allowed 12 people to stay in a Charlotte Street rooming house instead of eight. (Philip Drost/CBC News)

After hearing the news of the proposed zoning amendment, some neighbours wrote to the city, saying the rooming house made the neighbourhood "scary," and was sometimes the scene of late-night shouting matches and police visits. 

'I just feel bad for the people who are going to have to be moved out and try to relocate, whether it's under a bridge or on a street somewhere or in a tent somewhere.- Keith Young, landlord

Young hasn't been following the rules about maximum tenants and has had up to 14 people staying in the building.

"There's no doubt that there is a need for rooming houses," said MacDermid, who sits on Mayor Mike O'Brien's task force for homelessness. 

"What I hope that comes out of this … is that we actually address this in a meaningful and strategic manner that reflects the important values that are outlined in the housing first strategy." 

Six more people on street?

Young said he will have to ask six people to leave the house. He said he will keep those who've been there the longest.

Keith Young says he will have to ask six people to leave his rooming house and suggests they'll likely end up on the street. (Philip Drost/CBC)
"Really, I don't want anyone to go," he said.

Young admitted he made a mistake allowing too many people to live in the house, but he hoped council would help him correct it.

"Looking back, I just feel bad for the people who are going to have to be moved out and try to relocate, whether it's under a bridge or on a street somewhere or in a tent somewhere, when they could've had a nice, warm, healthy environment."

O'Brien called Monday's decision a tough one.

"Last night was a heart-wrenching decision but it really brings home there's a need, and there's a need for rooming houses, and we have to do better," O'Brien told lnformation Morning Fredericton.

Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien expects a report June 12 from a mayor's task force on affordable housing. (CBC)

He said this wasn't the first time Young tried to fit more people in the rooming house. In 2002, there were also more people than the eight units allowed by a permit given back in the late 1990s.

"When you find out there's a violation it has to be addressed," O'Brien said.

There is no municipal obligation in New Brunswick to provide the about-to-be evicted residents a place to stay. But O'Brien said the city has contacted a community action group on homelessness who will help relocate residents.

On June 12, O'Brien said his task force will also be giving a report that tackles the issue of affordable housing in Fredericton. Down the road, he hopes 40 new units will be built within the city.

"Morally and emotionally we've got to get involved," O'Brien said.

One vote of support

Coun. Steven Hicks was the only councillor to support the amendment. 

"Every night our homeless shelters are full," said Hicks. 

"In a perfect world we're not having this conversation here, but we live in far from a perfect world here in Fredericton."

Hicks said the rooming house was in the perfect location, and without that house, the people living there are on the street. 

Hicks acknowledged Young had been housing more than he was allowed but said this was a chance to right a wrong. 

"All this would do by defeating this, is it would be one step backwards," said Hicks.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Philip Drost is a journalist with the CBC. You can reach him on Twitter @phildrost or by email at philip.drost@cbc.ca.

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