BUILDing Momentum Around Healthy Housing
For the past year, the New Brunswick Healthy Housing Collaborative has been doing home assessments of the Esperanza and Unity Square neighborhoods in order to better identify the prevalent issues impacting healthy housing in New Brunswick. The data analysis of both the home assessments and the experiential data from the Community Health Ambassadors (CHAs) demonstrated a significant number of homes with issues regarding mold, pests, and safety. Yet, the biggest issue identified is one that incapacitates them all-Tenant/landlord issues.
Many of the homes assessed required major repairs, which fall on the responsibility of the homeowner (landlord) and not the tenant. Landlords have substantially failed to remedy necessary repairs. This is indicative of a city-wide issue when you consider that over 70% of New Brunswick households are tenant occupied, and a significant number of them immigrant families that are undocumented. Mistrust and fear, misinformation about city services and regulations and limited literacy are some of the factors that diminish the ability of the community to effectively address some of these concerns. Some landlords have even threatened both eviction and calling immigration authorities and a means to keep tenants quite. As such, we heard many participants say that they “did not want to bother the property owner” with respect to getting repairs done.
As we look for solutions to these issues, we recognize that the first step is awareness. People need to be made aware of their rights as tenants and that they can exercise these rights regardless of their immigration status. Therefore, we developed a tenant rights community workshop series. The first was held at the Unity Square Community Center. Facilitated by the CHAs, this peer to peer intervention provided over 20 residents with the opportunity to not only share their tenant/landlord issues but also learn about their ability to migrate them. The series will follow with workshops featuring presentations from housing attorneys and the City housing inspectors and rent control office. These are the building blocks to organizing a community response that will advocate for system and policy changes that address healthy and stable housing.
About the Grantee
New Brunswick Tomorrow's mission is to improve the quality of life for all New Brunswick residents; driving ideas, partnerships and initiatives that reinvigorate lives and move people forward. Within Community Health, a major focus area, we look to improve health outcomes by promoting health active lifestyles, preventing diseases, and increasing access to health services.