Controversial rooming house awaits decision from Fredericton council

A controversial motion to permit a rooming house in a downtown Fredericton building made its first appearance before city council Monday night.

Keith Young has asked council for a zone amendment to allow a rooming house with 12 rooms within a three-unit converted dwelling at 244-246 Charlotte Street.

Young, who has owned the property for more than 20 years, told council that he currently operates the building as affordable housing for low-income residents in the city.

That's despite permits which, according to city staff, say the building cannot be used as a rooming house.

City staff say they inspected the building last summer after receiving a complaint, and found there were 14 people living there and the tenants were paying rent to the landlord.

Current permits limit the building to a maximum of two dwelling units, nine bedrooms, and no more than four unrelated persons per dwelling unit – for a total of eight people – and specify it cannot be used as a rooming house.

Young told council at Monday night's regular meeting that he'll be forced to evict some of his tenants if council does not approve the zone amendment, and he worries what could happen to them.

Four tenants spoke in favour of the motion during the meeting, with some saying they'd be homeless had it not been for Young.

Coun. John MacDermid raised concerns he's received from some of the neighbours about the building being frequented by police, fire and ambulance personnel.

Young said police have been called in the past, but that he works quickly to address any problems, which may include evicting a tenant.

When asked by Coun. Eric Price about his non-compliance with the building permit, Young said he knew only eight people could live there, but that he just kept taking in new people who were coming in off the street.

Price, who chairs the city's affordable housing committee, said the matter puts council in a precarious situation, especially knowing that some tenants could be evicted.

He said he wants to see more affordable housing in the city, but also acknowledged there has to be rules and regulations.

Both city staff and the planning advisory committee have recommended that council reject Young's application based on his non-compliance with the approved building permit.

Council will have another opportunity to speak to the issue, and make a decision on the motion, during the next regular meeting on May 8.