Off-site Construction Research Centre

Key takeaways from GNB’s new housing strategy

Author: Angad Loomba

Posted on Aug 1, 2023

Category: Research

Access to safe and affordable housing is a fundamental right for every individual. Recognizing the pressing need to address housing challenges, the Government of New Brunswick (GNB) has recently unveiled its comprehensive NB Housing Strategy: Housing for All.

This forward-thinking initiative aims to prevent homelessness and ensure housing stability for residents. With a focus on immediate needs and long-term sustainability, the strategy outlines several key initiatives, including the establishment of a rent bank and direct financial assistance to tenants.

Let's delve into the highlights of this groundbreaking plan which is built on four pillars: i) creating a healthy and competitive housing market, ii) providing more affordable homes, iii) ensuring a safe home for vulnerable New Brunswickers, and iv) laying a strong foundation for the province's housing system.

Promote modular homes

The strategy recognizes the tremendous potential of modular construction, particularly in small population communities facing high demand for housing and labour and material shortages. Taking action, the provincial government, through the New Brunswick Housing Corporation (NBHC), will launch a public awareness campaign to dispel outdated stereotypes surrounding modular homes.

The campaign will emphasize the speed and affordability with which modular homes can provide safe housing for New Brunswick families. The NBHC will lead by example, constructing modular units and encouraging other stakeholders to follow suit.

The rent bank

One of the notable initiatives of the NB Housing Strategy is the introduction of a rent bank. Drawing inspiration from successful models in other provinces, the rent bank will receive a $3 million investment over two years. Its primary objective is to support up to 750 renter households annually, helping them avoid eviction or find new rental accommodations.

Through small, short-term loans, low-to-mid-income renters will receive assistance with arrears, overdue utilities, first month's rent, or security deposits. This crucial intervention reduces the risk of eviction and provides stability to those in need.

Direct financial assistance for tenants

To further alleviate the burden of housing costs and decrease the subsidized housing waitlist, the NB Housing Strategy will introduce a direct-to-tenant rental benefit. This new initiative will receive an annual investment of $22 million and will offer rental assistance to families, seniors, and persons with disabilities.

By providing support tailored to individual needs, this benefit enables vulnerable individuals to access and maintain safe housing options that best suit them. It represents a significant step forward in promoting inclusivity and ensuring equal opportunities for all residents.

Financial support for ‘Habitat for Humanity’

As part of the key initiatives, the NB Housing Strategy includes financial support for Habitat for Humanity in New Brunswick. The government, through the NBHC, will launch a program that provides a capital investment of $70,000 per unit for up to 10 new homes annually. This collaboration aims to transition 10 lower-income families into homeownership, potentially removing them from the subsidized housing waitlist.

By partnering with Habitat for Humanity, the strategy recognizes the organization's successful track record in building homes for low-to-mid-income families, contributing to the goal of creating accessible and affordable housing options.

Increase supply of skilled trades professionals

The NB Housing Strategy addresses the challenge of a shortage of skilled trade workers, impacting development projects and particularly affecting rural areas. The New Brunswick Department of Post-secondary Education Training and Labour (PETL) has introduced a three-year Residential Construction and Manufacturing Action Plan. This plan aims to increase the number of registered apprentices in priority construction and manufacturing professions by seven percent annually.

The plan includes removing apprenticeship barriers, establishing a skilled trades office/strategy in countries like India, launching an international student co-op carpentry program, and supporting skills trades exploration programs. These initiatives are projected to raise the number of registered apprentices in key trades by 21 percent by fall 2024.

The NB Housing Strategy has set ambitious targets to measure its success:

  1. Increase Housing Starts: Aim for 6,000 new homes annually to meet demand.
  2. Affordable Shelter Costs: Limit housing costs to 15% of income for no more than 15% of households.
  3. Rent and Home Price Stability: Keep rent increases at 2.5% and home price change at 4.8% per year.
  4. Decrease in Subsidized Housing Needs: Reduce waitlist from 11,000 to 7,500 households by 2026.

OCRC's perspective

We commend the government on the groundbreaking housing strategy. We believe that this comprehensive plan will have a transformative impact on the housing landscape in the province, ensuring safe and affordable homes for all residents. The strategy's emphasis on modular construction is particularly encouraging, as it addresses the housing needs of small population communities facing challenges with housing demand and shortages.

By promoting modular homes through a public awareness campaign, the NBHC is taking a proactive step towards creating sustainable and efficient housing solutions. We envision that modular construction will play a pivotal role in meeting the ambitious targets set by the strategy, driving innovation and revolutionizing the construction industry in New Brunswick. With the implementation of the rent bank, direct financial assistance, and support for organizations like Habitat for Humanity, the NB Housing Strategy demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity and social welfare.

OCRC is optimistic that this strategy will lead to a brighter future for the residents of New Brunswick, creating a healthy and competitive housing market while ensuring safe homes for vulnerable communities.

Discover the full scope of the housing strategy.