CHMA: ‘There’s really nothing around’: Sackville residents struggle to find housing

Posted February 28, 2022

A widespread shortage of housing has left one local resident – the owner of Sackville’s only bicycle repair shop – contemplating a return to his family in Ontario until an apartment becomes available locally.

Tobias Paul, owner of Barnyard Bicycles, said he’s lived in Sackville on and off for about eight years. When his housing situation changed in January, he found himself without a fixed address.

“Vacancies will always pop up in April when the students leave town,” he said. “But during that eight month period, when school is in session, the town is really in a hard lock.”

Paul, 28, said he’s even looked in Moncton and Amherst for a place to call home. He told CHMA he’s staying with a friend and thinking about heading back to Ontario to stay with his parents.

‘Massive jump’ in rent

Douglas Murray has lived in Sackville for 49 years. He’s currently looking for a new home because his apartment building in Sackville is slated for demolition. 

But finding somewhere to live isn’t easy. Murray says the rent for available units tends to be about $150 per month more than what he’s currently paying, which he called a “massive jump.” 

“It’s pretty disheartening,” he said. “There’s no cheap places to live in Sackville because anyone that gets a cheap place here hangs onto it.”

Many houses that were formerly rented out to students at Mount Allison University have been bought up in recent years, and the owners have converted those buildings into single-family households, according to the longtime Sackville resident. 

That, in turn, is putting more pressure on the rental market as students look for somewhere to live, Murray said.

Housing crisis?

A report on the rental housing market published last year by the Government of New Brunswick said the province “is not currently in a housing crisis as the system is working for many, but it could become a crisis if we don’t pay attention.”

Peter Jongeneelen, a member of ACORN New Brunswick – a group which advocates for measures including rent control – said the housing crisis is already here.

“I’ve heard of people looking for up to six months, just to find something perchance that they can afford, or something that is within their budget, or even in their area,” he said.

The provincial government rejected demands for rent control during a revision of the Residential Tenancies Act last year.

Jongeneelen said other possible solutions include inclusionary zoning, a policy requiring a certain percentage of apartments in new buildings to be geared towards low-income renters.

One-fifth of units in new buildings should be set aside for affordable housing, Jongeneelen said.

The provincial government has said the Community Planning Act will be amended to give local governments the ability to implement inclusionary zoning.

Population pressure

New figures from Statistics Canada indicate Sackville’s population grew by 14.4 per cent between 2016 and 2021. 

The Town of Sackville’s population reached 6,099 last year, according to the 2021 census. That’s an increase of 768 compared to five years earlier.

Jamie Burke, the Town of Sackville’s chief administrative officer, acknowledged the town’s growth is a double-edged sword, increasing the town’s tax base, while also putting pressure on the housing market.

“We’ve heard of students literally unable to find rental accommodations to attend university,” he said. The housing shortage may also pose a problem for businesses trying to expand if workers can’t find somewhere to live.

As for inclusionary zoning, he said consultation with developers would be required.

Low vacancy rates have been reported in urban and rural areas across New Brunswick.

The vacancy rate in Metro Moncton area was 2.8 per cent by October 2020, compared to six per cent four years earlier, according to data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Across the province, the vacancy rate was just 3.1 per cent in October 2020, down from 6.6 per cent New Brunswick-wide in October 2016.

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Article by David Gordon Koch for CHMA FM

 

 

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