New Brunswick Trails Behind in Housing Starts despite Rent Cap Cancellation

CEO Khai Intela
Efforts to increase housing construction in the Maritime provinces reveal a disparity in performance, with Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia outpacing New Brunswick. Interestingly, this is despite the New Brunswick government's decision to relax...

Efforts to increase housing construction in the Maritime provinces reveal a disparity in performance, with Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia outpacing New Brunswick. Interestingly, this is despite the New Brunswick government's decision to relax rent protections for tenants last year in hopes of stimulating development. Let's delve deeper into this discrepancy and explore its implications.

Challenging Times in New Brunswick

New Brunswick witnessed the commencement of construction on 4,547 new housing units from January to December 2023, encompassing various residential types such as houses, townhouses, apartments, and condominiums. Regrettably, this figure represents a 2.8% decline compared to 2022. In terms of population-adjusted housing starts—calculated based on July 1 population estimates—New Brunswick only managed 545 units per 100,000 people. This falls below the national average and lags significantly behind the numbers achieved by both Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, with 655 and 676 housing starts per 100,000 respectively.

The Shocking Reality

Warren Maddox, the executive director of Fredericton Homeless Shelters Inc., expressed his surprise at this revelation. Despite advocating for a swift government response to New Brunswick's housing shortage, even he had not been aware of the superior performance of other provinces in initiating new housing projects. Maddox emphasized the urgency of taking action rather than simply discussing the need for it. He stated, "We can talk about it all we want. We need to get some housing built."

A Regional Priority

All three Maritime provinces have identified the pressing need for new housing to accommodate their growing populations. By the end of 2023, an estimated 2.1 million individuals resided in the region, reflecting an increase of 152,000 people in just three years. However, the supply of housing has failed to keep pace with this expansion, resulting in skyrocketing real estate prices, rising rent costs, and a surging homelessness problem.

The Government's Approach

The New Brunswick government noted that the province requires 6,000 new housing units annually to address the shortage. To achieve this, they have heavily relied on private developers, aiming to create conditions that incentivize construction. One such incentive was the cancellation of a policy that limited annual rent increases for tenants. However, it seems that this move did not yield the desired outcome in terms of boosting housing starts.

A Controversial Decision

During a legislative committee meeting, the Chief Executive Officer of Service New Brunswick, Alan Roy, revealed that landlords and developers convinced the province that rent caps hindered new construction. However, Kent South Liberal MLA Benoît Bourque expressed concern that this decision was based solely on developer feedback, without independent data to substantiate it. This prompted Roy to admit that he was not aware of any jurisdictions where rent caps had stifled the development of rental housing.

Voices in Support of Rent Caps

Matthew Hayes, a sociology professor at St. Thomas University and spokesperson for the New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants Rights, emphasized the need to reinstate rent caps. Hayes argued that the lack of development in New Brunswick is unrelated to rent control, given that many other provinces with rent control measures experience substantial development. Julia Woodhall-Melnik, a housing specialist at the University of New Brunswick, also highlighted the absence of evidence supporting the claim that rent control hampers development.

The Path Forward

The New Brunswick government is currently scrutinizing the 2023 housing start numbers but has yet to conclude its analysis. In the meantime, concerned citizens and experts continue to advocate for the reinstatement of rent caps, not only as a means to spur construction but also as a crucial measure to provide security for New Brunswickers.

![Warren Maddox](image link)

Warren Maddox is the executive director of Fredericton Homeless Shelters and highlights the slow progress in housing construction in New Brunswick.

![Alan Roy](image link)

Alan Roy, representing Service New Brunswick, testified that there was no independent evidence suggesting that rent caps impeded new housing construction in New Brunswick.

![Benoît Bourque](image link)

Benoît Bourque, a Kent South Liberal MLA, questioned the decision to cancel rent caps based solely on the feedback of developers, without supporting evidence.

![Matthew Hayes](image link)

Matthew Hayes, from the New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants Rights, advocates for the reintroduction of rent caps, noting that other provinces with rent control have seen more housing starts than New Brunswick.

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