Friday, August 19, 2011

'We're tearing down the wall of resistance'

(excerpts from an article published int he Daily Gleaner, August 19th, 2011)


Fredericton developers are becoming more open to including rent-subsidized housing in their new apartment developments, says the chairman of Fredericton's affordable housing committee.

Fredericton developers are becoming more open to including rent-subsidized housing in their new apartment developments, says the chairman of Fredericton's affordable housing committee.

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Federal Society Development Minister Sue Stultz and Coun. Mike O'Brien, the chairman of the city's affordable-housing committee, toured affordable-housing developments in Fredericton, including this one called The Tannery at Brookside Court project, developed by Avide Properties.

Coun. Mike O'Brien and members of the city's affordable housing group met recently with provincial Social Development Minister Sue Stultz - the provincial minister responsible for seniors, housing and community non-profit organizations.

O'Brien said the city's affordable housing committee has had enjoyed a great relationship with Social Development ministers over the years.

"We've met with each minister in the past and explained what our committee's mandate is and that we can't move forward without their continued assistance, and we have had tremendous co-operation from the Social Development ministers, deputies and executive staff over the years," O'Brien said.

During the meeting with Stultz, representatives from Fredericton Homeless Shelters Inc., the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce and the city's Community Action Group on Homelessness were able to talk with the minister, O'Brien said.

The minister visited six affordable-housing developments in the city, including The Tannery at Brookside Court project, developed by Avide Properties.

Over the past decade, Fredericton developers have become more accepting of including affordable housing in their mix of market-geared apartment construction, the councillor said.

The city's Lutheran Church built an affordable-housing development on Regent Street with the help of Avide Properties.

Another developer opened up a project on Cliffe Street. The John Howard Society built one on Main Street.

Two other projects are located in the Brookside Drive area, including a development to open in the fall. Other developers have included government rent-supported units in other buildings.

O'Brien said by having resident property managers, the developments are being maintained properly and tenant issues are addressed.

"I think we've seen a lot of successes, quality buildings, successful projects and improvements to neighbourhoods, and one by one, we're tearing down the wall of resistance," he said.

"In the past, the money allotted to the greater Fredericton area for programing was not being used for two reasons. Our developers were maybe timid of getting into these types of projects because of the perception and the stigma attached to them. And the other reason is they were just too busy building new homes, apartments and condos."

By organizing annual affordable-housing days hosted by the affordable-housing committee, the city has been gradually educating developers to the funding options available to them and easing their concerns about government red tape.

"We made them aware that they can get into these programs with less restrictions and headaches than they thought might exist," O'Brien said.

He believes there's a shift in public attitudes toward affordable housing.

"The community is more accepting and embracing of the need," O'Brien said.

"Also, the market for expensive homes and apartments is not infinite. You can build a quality, affordable-housing development and make money off of it, and that's not a dirty word at all."

Fredericton Non-Profit Housing is another group that has done a great job of taking existing housing stock and retrofitting it for affordable housing, O'Brien said.

To read the entire article, click on the following link: http://http//dailygleaner.canadaeast.com/cityregion/article/1433094

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

FREDERICTON DEVELOPERS OPEN TO MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROJECTS - COUNCILLOR (excerpts from article published in the Telegraph-Journal August 13, 2011)

Fredericton developers are becoming more open to including rent-subsidized housing in their new apartment developments, says the chairman of Fredericton's affordable-housing committee.

Coun. Mike O'Brien and members of the city's affordable-housing group met recently with federal Social Development Minister Sue Stultz, who is responsible for seniors, housing and community non-profit organizations.

During the visit, representatives from Fredericton Homeless Shelters Inc., Fredericton Chamber of Commerce and the city's Community Action Group on Homelessness were able to talk with the minister, O'Brien said.

The minister toured six affordable housing developments in the city, including The Tannery at Brookside Court project developed by Avide Properties.

Over the past decade, Fredericton developers have been including affordable housing within their mix of market-geared apartment construction.

"I think we've seen a lot of successes, quality buildings, successful projects and improvements to neighbourhoods and one by one we're tearing down the wall of resistance," he said.

Tim Ross, co-ordinator of the Community Action Group on Homelessness, said the city's housing need is like an iceberg.

"The largest part of the problem is hidden from view," Ross said. "There's about 30,000 households in Fredericton and there are 6,105 households that are considered to be in distress. That's based on Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation data that reports on housing affordability, overcrowding and housing that's in need of major repair," Ross said.

The 6,105 households that, the action group says, face tough financial straits are spending more than 30 per cent of their income on housing. If most of the household income goes to pay for a roof and walls, then there's little left for healthy nutrition and other family needs.

Ross agrees with O'Brien that developers are opening up to the concept of affordable housing.

"We've been building very effective partnerships with developers on the delivery of affordable housing programing and we've also seen a significant drop in the not-in-my-backyard syndrome when developments come forward," Ross said.

"The goal at the end of the day is more mixed-income development where an individual's housing may be subsidized, but it's seamlessly blended into our community," Ross said. "Most residents wouldn't even know where affordable housing units are located in the city ... You may already be a neighbour of a subsidized unit."


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Affordable Housing Visit by Minister Sue Stultz

Affordable Housing Visit by Minister Sue Stultz Fredericton, NB – Hon. Sue Stultz, Minister of Social Development and Minister Responsible for Seniors, Housing and Community Non-Profit Organizations, along with several provincial officials was recently in Fredericton for an informal meeting with Coun. Mike O’Brien, Chair of the City of Fredericton’s Affordable Housing Committee and other committee representatives.

The city’s committee acts as an advocate for the homeless, the working poor and those with special housing needs to improve their quality of life through affordable housing in Fredericton. While in the city, the Minister also took the time to view some of Fredericton’s successful affordable housing developments.

Pictured,above, left to right, are Minister Stultz and Coun. Mike O’Brien at The Tannery at Brookside Court

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

COMMITTEE TO EXPLORE OPTIONS FOR YORK ARENA

(As publshed in the Daily Gleaner, August 9/11)

The chairman of an ad hoc committee on the future of the York Arena is planning to hear from special interest groups, the public and experts before drawing a conclusion on the fate of the northside ice hockey arena.

Coun. Mike O'Brien, who has been opposed to retaining the structure once the Grant * Harvey Centre is completed, said he's prepared to weigh all the facts with an unbiased eye.

He was appointed to head up the committee by Mayor Brad Woodside and city council after the Save the York Arena group wanted to make a fresh approach to city council touting the merits of saving the building. A second group, consisting of local runners who are looking for indoor training space, has also stepped forward.

City council Monday night appointed five people to serve with O'Brien on the ad hoc committee, including: its executive director of special projects Greg Cook; Rob Jackson and Gabriela Tymowski as community representatives; and Holly Hyslop of the joint city and local service district recreation advisory committee. The recreation advisory committee was formed when a number of local services districts and the Village of New Maryland voted to contribute taxes toward the cost of the city's two new arenas. Willie O'Ree Place opened in 2008. The city, in turn, waived all non-resident user fees for its sports facilities.

"We will hear presentations from groups that have a particular interest in York Arena, either for maintaining it for hockey or for some alternate use, so we will set time aside to meet with them personally and let them make presentations and the committee can then ask questions. Those will be open to the public," O'Brien said.

He plans to hold a public meeting to receive brief presentations for and against keeping York Arena open.

"We will also hear presentations from the dMA group that did the recreation master study (for the city) to try to pick their brains a bit more on per capita ice surface requirements and alternate recreational needs in the city that demands dollars," O'Brien said.

ADI Ltd., which conducted a structural audit of all the city's ice hockey arena's as part of a facilities 220-page evaluation study released in 2004, will be hired to present an update of its structural analysis of the York Arena.

"We will also engage Hockey New Brunswick to come in and give a presentation on hockey use and growth or the lack thereof. We'll get a broad perspective fiscally and we'll also get a presentation from city treasurer Tina Tapley on the fiscal costs of maintaining the York Arena and upgrading it or closing it," O'Brien said Monday night.

Recommendations from the city's community services division will be included, O'Brien said.

"We have a very good committee put together. I wanted to have a panel of people that were passionate and experts in their field, but who were also detached from the issue. Rob Jackson is a tennis Hall of Fame member and former president of Downtown Fredericton Inc. Gabriela Tymowski is an associate professor at the university (of New Brunswick), but she is also a well published scholar on participation and fighting obesity by having recreational opportunities," O'Brien said.

He said the startup meeting of the ad hoc committee will be held in October. O'Brien said he hopes to have a final report to council no later than February.

O'Brien said there are no budget implications to the city until at least the 2013 budget year.


Friday, August 05, 2011

Fredericton crime rate cut by repeat offenders list
(as published by CBC NB News on August 03/11)

Fredericton police say they have knocked down the city's crime rate by using a repeat offenders list to keep a close eye on those most likely to commit crimes.

There has been a 35 per cent drop in thefts this year compared to last year, police say.

Staff Sgt. Brian Ford credits that success to the list, which includes the names of people who have had more than 50 run-ins with the law in the last two years. Police knock on the doors of all those people to make sure they are abiding by court orders, he said.

There are 45 repeat offenders on the list and they are responsible for 87 per cent of the thefts in the city, Ford said, along with many other property crimes such as arson and vandalism.

"We make sure those court orders are enforced," Ford said. "For example, a curfew. We will actually be there checking on these people, their curfews, not just once a night but sometimes twice a night and they get to know us on a first name basis."

The new strategy also gives police a window into who commits what crimes and when, Ford said. "Looking at the [modus operandi] of the suspects gives us a good indication of where our crimes are being committed," he said. "They can even narrow down times that we can expect crimes to be committed, in some instances."

A repeat offender list was first used in the U.K. in 2004 where property crimes also declined by 30 per cent.