Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced nearly $9.2 million for Saint John to help fast-track 285 new housing units over the next three years.
The $9.18-million funding agreement, under the federal government's Housing Accelerator Fund, will provide more housing options in the city, including more rental units and affordable housing, he said during a news conference in Saint John Wednesday, joined by Saint John-Rothesay MP Wayne Long and Mayor Donna Reardon.
"We've worked very, very hard with the City of Saint John to come to an ambitious proposal that's going to increase densification, that's going to accelerate the processes in terms of building more housing more quickly," Trudeau said.
"They're looking at freeing up public land for housing. They're looking at all the different things that are going to not just make individual projects happen, but change the way all housing is built."
The announcement comes following the death of Evan McArthur, 44, in a homeless tent encampment fire near the Main Street Viaduct over Route 1.
The agreement could help spur the construction of more than 1,700 homes over the next decade and help meet the demand in Saint John, according to the federal government.
It's a "pivotal moment" for Saint John, according to the mayor.
"This partnership is more than just a financial commitment, it's a promise to our residents," said Reardon. The city is dedicated to accelerating the development of affordable housing and ensuring every member of the community has a place to call home, she said.
"This initiative is more than just building houses, it's about building a future."
Saint John Mayor Donna Reardon said the announcement shows the federal government recognizes that housing is the 'cornerstone of healthy, vibrant and inclusive communities and the need for assisting municipalities in addressing local housing challenges.' (Radio-Canada)
Saint John's Housing Accelerator Fund includes incentives to help increase construction of apartments, townhouses, secondary suites, and affordable units; public land redevelopment; amendments to the zoning bylaw to permit additional density in key areas; and a new electronic permitting system.
As a small city with a big heart, we have to be bold and we want to grow. — Donna Reardon, mayor
"It brings transformational and most importantly, systemic change at the municipal level that will continue to move us forward in creating a community that is conducive to housing and focuses on addressing the housing challenges faced both here in Saint John and throughout Canada," said Reardon.
"As a small city with a big heart, we have to be bold and we want to grow. And I'm going to use your father [former prime minister Pierre Trudeau's] line and I'm going to say, 'Just watch us.'"
This marks the 22nd Housing Accelerator Fund announcement the federal government has made across the country.
Saint John had applied for about $15 million to help build 1,200 over three years.
Asked how the federal government decided how much to give each municipality, Trudeau replied: "There is a lot of hard work and a lot of partnership going into looking at what could actually be done, what is the right level.
"We came down with an agreement around $9.18 million for the Housing Accelerator Fund, which we feel is the right level to really enable Saint John to accelerate to get more homes built faster, to get people into those homes in an affordable way, and we're really pleased with that announcement."