St. Stephen mayor Allan MacEachern is seen, centre in a black shirt, at a council meeting July 26. Andrew Bates, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Charlotte County’s mayors are trying whatever they can to get new housing online.

“We are very behind,” said St. Stephen Mayor Allan MacEachern. “We’re in a critical stage, actually, as most people probably in the province are,” adding that housing is affecting issues around homelessness, policing and growth.

In February, the Southwest New Brunswick Service Commission received a report suggesting the region needs 600 to 1,000 new homes by 2026 to accommodate growth.

MacEachern said the municipality is encouraging development by guiding developers and using incentives. The Future St. Stephen agency handles economic development and housing, in effect “rolling out the red carpet,” MacEachern said. 

“(If) someone wants to come in here and they want to develop, we’re on them,” he said. “What do you need? Is there water/sewer available? Is there natural gas available? Is there rail available?”

At the municipality’s last meeting on July 26, president of Future St. Stephen Ian Williams said he’d had discussions with “multiple developers involving multiple sites.” He said he’s got two developers in particular he’s helping by speaking with the RSC, and took a third on a site tour of St. Stephen, which he said was “in the background.”

“There’s nothing that’s been anounced that’s anything new, but he’s got some pretty good things on the go right now,” MacEachern said. As of July, there were 24 new units built in 2023, with 52 building permit applications and 20 development permit applications processed.

In Eastern Charlotte, land which had been a part of Blacks Harbour is now a housing opportunity, according to Mayor John Craig. Some of the property which has passed into the new village’s hands is equipped with water and sewer and ready to go.

“We’ve got a lot of property opened up to us. It would be a really good deal,” Craig said in July. “As long as you build it in two years, we don’t care about the value of the land because we’re going to get the taxes when the house is built.”

Eastern Charlotte also has a project manager devoted to increasing housing, as well as an incentive program. Craig said that more housing is a high priority, especially with big employers like Cooke Aquaculture and Connors Bros. looking to house their workers locally.

“We have to get more housing in order for us to grow. We’ve got companies that need housing for their people for their factories and stuff in the area,” he said.

The municipality is also looking to draw more businesses, including by extending water and sewer service further out to the highway exit near Tim Hortons. Craig said there’s property to be developed, and that they’ve spoken with businesses including retail that are interested but need the service.

Saint Andrews Mayor Brad Henderson said in July that the town has “many different irons in the fire” with multiple-unit residential projects, and is in its “largest growth phase in the modern era.” 

That includes the Compass Housing 42-unit affordable housing project, due in 2024, which received $500,000 in town funding. The town has also given $90,000 in infrastructure grants to the Van Horne Garden Homes, 25-unit townhome project and $120,000 for road development to the Victoria Terrace garden home development, the Telegraph-Journal previously reported.

At the town’s council meeting on Aug. 10, members approved a public hearing for a rezoning for a rooming house project on Reed Avenue. There have been 22 new units approved in the town so far this year, with 69 building permits issued at a construction value of $10.8 million.

Henderson said that for the town, one “can’t build enough,” saying that vacancies are at 0.3 per cent as of late July.

“When you’re under five per cent, that makes it very tough,” he said, saying it’s tough to draw young workers making it harder for businesses to stay open, and seniors can’t downsize without available rental opportunities. 

At the same time, he said the town is protective of the look and feel of the community, and has shot some projects down that aren’t a fit. While the public supports promises of more housing in election time, Henderson said it can be tough to get support in some cases where there is opposition from neighbours.

Craig said rising costs are an issue, as well as high interest rates.

“I do know that there is a fair amount of work going on,” he said. “It’s hard to get builders too, because they’re so busy doing housing all around the area.”

MacEachern said that housing is a “piece of the puzzle” that affects a lot of the other major items affecting the town and the province.

 “It affects policing, it affects people being able to live and get to work, all those things,” MacEachern said. “It’s a province-wide issue, and we really gotta work on this housing thing. Or we’ve going to be dealing with other issues more if we don’t.”

With files from Marlo Glass, Telegraph-Journal archives

By Andrew Bates, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 14, 2023 at 08:23

This item reprinted with permission from   Telegraph-Journal   Saint John, New Brunswick
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