New Brunswick

Affordable housing project could lose $2M in grants because of rising costs

Soaring inflation and supply shortages are jeopardizing a transitional housing project in Saint John.

$2M in government grants conditional on centre being able to fill $400K shortfall

The Coverdale Emergency Women's Shelter is often at capacity. (Submitted/Crystal Scott)

Rising inflation and supply shortages are jeopardizing a transitional housing project in Saint John.

Mary Saulnier-Taylor, executive director of Coverdale Centre for Women, said the centre has received $2 million in government grants for a 12-unit affordable housing project in Waterloo Village. 

But increasing costs of building materials means the project will cost $400,000 more than planned, and the centre doesn't have that money.

She said if the centre can't prove it can cover the shortfall by March 16, the federal and provincial government grants will be rescinded before the project can break ground.

"We are racing against time," she told Information Morning Saint John.

The plan is to break ground this spring, Saulnier-Taylor said, and the group is hoping community crowdfunding and corporate donors can help fill the gap. They've also requested a meeting with the city.

The project was spurred on by a local business man, who donated land on Middle Street and Brunswick Drive two years ago.

The centre, which serves women dealing with intimate partner violence and homelessness, has been at capacity for the last few years, Saulnier-Taylor said. 

Shelter at capacity

Lack of affordable housing in the city means women have been staying at the shelter more often and for longer, Saulnier-Taylor said. 

"We're having to turn episodic and chronic homeless women away because we don't have the capacity," she said.

The project's goal is to provide stable housing for women facing chronic and episodic homelessness. The housing would be close to addiction and community services in that location.

Saulnier said the centre did have a contingency plan built into the budget in case of unexpected costs, but it was only 10 per cent. 

The difference between the building estimates they got last year and the updated ones goes beyond that 10 per cent, she said.

"We didn't really know how high the deficit was until everyone resubmitted their costs," she said. "We've just been receiving them during the past couple of weeks."

Extension, loans not possible

She said the centre was supposed to have the proof of funds ready by February, but it received an extension from the governments. She said with the end of the government fiscal year being March 31st, there isn't any more wiggle room.

"We understand fully that everyone has to have a budget, have a timeframe," she said.

Saulnier-Taylor said when she applied for the grants, she thought the centre can get a loan against the centre's current building if the shortfall is too big. However, the grant conditions say they can't do that.

If they can't get the money together, Saulnier-Taylor said it wll go to another project, but they won't have to give back the land. 

However, the centre doesn't want to keep the land unless there's a way they can build a housing project on it.

"We did not want to take property that we could not utilize … to build transitional housing," she said.

She also said the centre wouldn't be able to apply for all the same grants next years. 

With files from Information Morning Saint John

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