Fredericton council considering single room occupancy rentals


FREDERICTON -- Fredericton’s housing crisis has come one-step closer to a potential solution.

A survey on single room occupancy units was well received by the city of Fredericton’s Economic Vitality Committee.

Affordable housing advocates in the city are hoping those results can lead to the creation of a bylaw to encourage affordable housing.

A bylaw expected to be crafted by Fredericton’s city council could help the city’s homeless population.

“Just pass it would be the quick answer,” says Warren Maddox, Executive Director of Fredericton Homeless Shelters Inc.

It would create a zoning bylaw to develop single room occupancy units as an affordable housing, but that depends on how it rolls out.

“Don’t make it so incredibly restrictive that no one will do it,” says Maddox. “You know if you suddenly have somebody that has a couple rooms that they want to use, or a small house with three or four rooms, but you’re suddenly into $250,000 or $300,000 worth of renovations to make it comply.”

Many Frederictonians are not in an income bracket that allows them easily afford the luxury apartments that have been developed recently around town.

“Rents are skyrocketing in all of our communities,” says Fredericton city councillor Bruce Grandy. “Demand for units is very high, our vacancy rate is less than one per cent, and we need to do something and I think single room occupancy units are a part of that.”

A survey on single occupancy rooms was conducted by Dillon Consulting for council’s Affordable Housing Committee.

More than 200 people responded to the survey, with a large majority saying they would be comfortable with single room occupancy developments.

Those results will be now presented to city council.

“That report essentially forms the background of a recommendation that the Affordable Housing Committee gives to council on how to proceed,” says survey consultant Jennifer Brown. “The assumption is they will then refer it to the planning department to draft amendments to the zoning bylaw.”

While those amendments have still yet to be made, there are no guarantee that if they do come to fruition, developers will in fact create affordable living accomodations.

“It talks about some incentives,” says city councillor Bruce Grandy. “I don’t like to use the word ‘incentives’. I think it is more about collaborations. For example, if a developer is building a four storey multi-unit dwelling, it’s about maybe saying, look, we’ll allow you to go a varience of height for another floor if you put SRO’s on the top floor.”

The next Economic Vitality Committee meeting will discuss the bylaw on Feb. 18.