How did I miss this? How did you? New Brunswick’s housing crisis

Annual housing starts in New Brunswick dropped by between 30% and 45% between 2015 and 2019 compared to previous periods. The good news is that 2020 saw a rebound.

This at a time when population growth was starting to take off again:

I don’t know how I missed this. On the NB Multicultural Council tour around New Brunswick over the past few weeks this was the number one issue raised – urban, rural, north, south -didn’t matter.

I am sure the residential construction industry has a dozen explanations for this.

It doesn’t matter.

This is now a front and centre matter for government. It is squarely in the public interest to address this issue. I’m not suggesting heavy handed government intervention is the answer but we are going to need a lot of new housing. The last time New Brunswick’s population grew by the rate we will need in the coming years was the 1970s when we were building 800-900 new dwellings per 100,000 per year around the province – three times the 2015-2019 rate.

This won’t wait. We need a housing revolution – urban, rural, north, south, east, west. Modular homes could be part of the solution. Rural residents need to be able to get a mortgage. Immigrants need to be able to get a mortgage. We need more rental housing. We need housing that is affordable and we need housing that is tailored to young families. We need more housing for international students in post-secondary education.

What is possibly the most scary part of this all is that I’m hearing a big part of the challenge is the construction workforce. There are not enough workers.

And more than one out of every three construction trades – carpenter, electrician, etc. is set to retire in the next decade. Even as we need to triple home building.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

This rockets to the top of the agenda right now.

Our economic renewal depends on it.