In a warehouse on Fredericton’s north side, three tiny homes are under construction. Marcel LeBrun, the man behind the project, explains that these three will soon be finished and sent to the site of the new community at Two Nations Crossing.
The affordable housing project will see nearly 100 low-barrier housing units built. And now, it’s getting help from the provincial and federal governments.
Social Development announced Thursday it would provide $1.4 million through the Canada-New Brunswick Housing Strategy in the form of a forgivable loan toward the 12 Neighbours Community project.
The tiny homes, geared toward singles and couples, will also be subsidized housing, ensuring anyone living there won’t pay more than 30 per cent of their income on rent.
“Any affordable housing project is extremely complex and extremely expensive,” said LeBrun. “This funding today gives us about $40,000 of capital per home, which really helps us to build out the homes in the community.”
The funding is for phase one of the project, the first 36 homes. Each home will have a full kitchen, three-piece bathroom, loft and living space and have their own yards. Lebrun said four houses should be ready to move to the community by the end of the month.
Next summer, the plan is to expand and build a social enterprise centre, which will house a cafe and retail space where people can work and learn new skills.
“It would be very complex for government to just try and do this on their own,” said LeBrun. “And so that’s why I just decided, ‘I’m moving forward with this,’ and didn’t wait and started to develop with the confidence that I knew it was aligned with federal and provincial goals and they would likely come along and support.”
About 5,500 people are on the waiting list for social housing in the province.
LeBrun said 80 people applied to live there through the group’s website in the last month alone.
“We are focusing initially on people who do not have housing so we can help with that issue,” said LeBrun.
Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch called the project one of the most innovative in the country.
“This will make a significant dent, if not the opportunity to end homelessness in in the Fredericton region,” he said during a new conference. “It’s an exciting time. I know it’s a difficult time, but announcing some of these projects really sees that vision for the future.”
That promise has attracted other organizations that want to help. Churches and building suppliers have pitched in, said LeBrun. Supplies and furnishings have been donated. So has the warehouse space where the houses are being built.
“We have people so emotional over what we’re doing, like so enthusiastic and excited that this is happening in the city because they see people,they want to do something,” LeBrun said.
“They want to live in a community where they feel proud of how we treat our vulnerable citizens, but what can one person do? ‘Do I have the right framework, do I know what to do, am I going to cause more harm than good?’ All these questions come up. So you need a structure and a framework for people to be able to serve into.”
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