Woodstock seeking millions in federal housing funds

by | Nov 29, 2023

Nackawic also applying for close to a million to promote residential development

Woodstock council and staff have set their eyes on more than $5 million potentially available from the federal government to accelerate housing starts in the town.

In a report to council at the Oct. 21 council meeting, Woodstock Director of Planning and Development Andrew Garnett outlined plans to apply for up to $5.1 million through the federal government’s housing accelerator fund.

Garnett explained that the availability of the funding program happened quickly, but the town reacted in time to meet the application deadline.

The federal government announced the $4 billion program in its last budget, aiming to accelerate housing construction in the face of a national housing crisis.

Garnett said the government designed the fund to improve housing supply and help support and attract developers.

“It’s money we can spend to be more attractive to developers,” he said.

Garnett explained applications require the town to demonstrate the need and potential for housing growth.

“It’s a formula of growth and what we predict in the next few years,’ he said.

Garnett said if the town secures the funding, it must set up a process to use the money to accelerate development. He explained options could range from tax breaks to red-tape reduction.

He said the funds could spur new development or boost existing development plans, citing the redevelopment of the former Woodstock Middle School property into a multi-unit apartment complex as an example.

“Maybe we can accelerate that,” he said.

Councillors Jeff Bradbury and Will Belyea stressed the need to use federal funds to promote affordable housing in Woodstock.

Mayor Trina Jones responded by noting that the funds are available for all types of housing, but the town can direct the funds to the chosen areas.

She believes the town has a solid plan to produce a successful application.

“We’re already ahead of the process,” she said.

Nackawic-Millville Mayor Tim Fox said the rural community also applied for slightly less than $1 million through the federal accelerator fund.

He said the money could enhance a pair of projected residential developments on the drawing board, including a significant development behind the Nackawic Middle School if the application is successful.

Moncton recently became the first New Brunswick municipality to announce funding support through the federal housing accelerator program officially. Federal and municipal officials announced the fast-growing Hub City secured $15.5 million through the fund.

The Moncton announcement brought concerns from New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs about federal funds going directly to municipalities to the forefront. Earlier in November, he suggested bringing forward legislation to block such funding.

In response to Global News’s request for comment, Higgs responded with a statement but didn’t clarify what steps his government would take.

“Bypassing provincial governments is not the solution,” the statement read. “Collaboration is key here as we need all three levels of government to work together on housing and other critical files.”

The premier also stated that his government wants a program similar to Quebec, where the feds and province work together to fund projects directed at municipalities.

Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold, excited by the funding announcement, said she welcomed the premier’s interest in housing, suggesting the provincial government match federal funds to promote affordable housing in the province further.

In Woodstock, Mayor Jones and Garnett said the federal government did not indicate a timeline on when they would respond to the town’s application.

Garnett said the government only announced funding approvals for large municipalities to date,

Jones explained Woodstock falls into the second category of municipalities with populations of 10,000 or more. She hopes to see some announcements in that category soon.

Jones explained the federal accelerator fund lays out specific requirements, including the types of proposed developments.

“They want to see densification,” she said.

Jones said Woodstock needs all housing types, including affordable options for low-income residents, students and newcomers.

“I’m hoping we land some real good money,” she said.

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