Affordable housing a 'realistic concern', says Fredericton councillor

A Fredericton city councillor says affordable housing is a realistic concern, and is something the Mayor's Task Force on Homelessness is looking at.

Coun. John MacDermid made the comments after council approved a new 32-unit apartment building on the city's south side at Monday night's council meeting.

Three, six-unit apartment buildings will be torn down to make way for the new complex, located at 347-379 Connaught Street.

After Monday night's meeting, MacDermid said the new project will certainly change the nature of the area.

"It's taking old building stock and replacing it with more contemporary design and a more modern living area," said MacDermid.

MacDermid said he's not concerned about losing the three buildings as the new apartment complex will actually increase the overall number of rental units in the city.

Rental affordability a 'really fair consideration'

When asked if he's worried about rent affordability in more modern buildings, MacDermid said it's a really fair consideration.

"Part of the challenge at a municipal level in terms of how we develop our city is allowing for land use, and then once that land use is determined, allowing the market to make that determination," he said.

MacDermid said affordable housing is a realistic concern, and hopefully in the grand scheme of things, more developers will realize there's an opportunity to fill vacancies through lower rent.

But the councillor said the city as a whole does not have the ability to set rental rates for developers.

"In a perfect world, we would be able to control some of these things," said MacDermid. "I think that perfect world would come up with some imbalances, and that really council is not the appropriate body to be making those very specific calls on very specific sites."

Higher vacancy rate one solution to rental affordability

MacDermid said one of the problems facing the city is its low vacancy rate for rental units.

"The more units we can add to that, the higher the vacancy rate is going to go, and you come into better supply and demand," he said. "The higher the supply is compared to the demand, the prices are going to come down in terms of rental."

MacDermid is part of the Mayor's Task Force on Homelessness, and he said affordable housing is one of the areas members are looking at.

He said a report will be brought back to council within the next month outlining what the city can do, and what recommendations can be made to stakeholders and other levels of government.