The new federal budget announced Thursday has ambitious goals for helping both first-time homebuyers and increasing the housing stock, especially in rural communities and municipalities.
The plan is welcome news in New Brunswick.
It proposes adding 100,000 housing units over five years as part of the Housing Accelerator Fund, and money to help bring down barriers for municipalities to build more housing.
The budget also renews the Rapid Housing Initiative, according to Miramichi Mayor Adam Lordon.
“We were pleased to see a renewal of that commitment,” he said in an interview Friday. “You know, the rapid housing initiative that has had two phases over the last couple of years – my understanding is the intention is to continue that and that seems to be working in getting, in particular, that affordable housing working.”
He said affordable housing continues to be a challenge for many municipalities.
Lordon said Miramichi has seen record development in the last year.
“There are 300-plus units right now at some stage of development in the community and these are units that we desperately need but the reality is not enough of them are in the affordable component,” he said.
However, general stock issues still remain.
“The reality is when there is a shortage of supply across the board, those developers are going to look to develop the more mid- and higher-level units because that’s where the profit is going to be for them.”
Lordon also said the ban on foreign buyers of properties in Canada is a good thing. He said there were two properties in the city purchased by foreign buyers and administrative staff have had trouble communicating with them and therefore they remain undeveloped.
Miramichi isn’t the only city experiencing housing issues.
While Fredericton reported record growth for the last year, Marchell Coulombe, vice-chair with the Fredericton Affordable Housing Committee, said more doesn’t mean affordable.
“The issue around affordability is availability, but with skyrocketing development, with record-setting development, it hasn’t necessarily translated into more affordable housing stock, so, we know it’s not just building more,” she said in an interview Friday.
Coulombe said there are good things in the budget.
“It was good to see … the federal government lean back into housing,” she said.
Premier Blaine Higgs responded to the budget announcement Thursday, telling reporters that the devil will be in the details.
“But it will help,” he said. “Once we get the details of the program, because I think a lot of times we see the basis of ‘OK, this is what it’s going to be in terms of dollars,’ but we don’t know how it’s going to be administered, how quickly it’ll be available, and what it means for each province, so.”
A tax-free first-time homebuyers account will also be created, allowing people to contribute up to $40,000, tax-deductible, toward a new home. It is similar to tax-free savings accounts.
The provincial government also introduced a one-year rent cap that will be retroactive to Jan. 1 to help ease the increasing rents tenants in the province are facing.
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