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'The solution is actually quite simple': Fredericton tiny home community founder says about housing

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While it seems like some Maritime communities are in an uphill battle with affordable housing, one Fredericton man's community model is thriving and expanding.

The 12 Neighbours tiny home community was first developed by Marcel LeBrun last year.

The community aims to give everyone a safe, affordable place to live.

"Homelessness on the one hand is very complex, but really the solution to it is actually quite simple and it starts with housing,” said LeBrun.

Eight new community members moved into 12 Neighbours on Thursday. They say it's not just about safe, affordable housing, it's also about having a community.

Al Smith has been living in the community for close to a year.

"For me it's really good. We have our original six people here, we kind of stick together. Anybody new that comes, like Justin that was just here for coffee. We get a lot of people a lot of gatherings in front of this porch,” Smith said.

12 Neighbours adds one new house a week to the project. The community now has 36 homes on the property and about 33 residents.

But the list of those in Fredericton in need of housing currently has about 170 people.

"We go through a process with social development so they, you know, contact people and check out their interest and we have a bit of an intake process where we show them a house and they learn about the community and decide if it's a fit for them,” LeBrun said.

Following the death of an unhoused man in Moncton last week, LeBrun says more shelters are not the answer.

"We put all this investment and energy into emergency response which delays the actual response, so in fact right now I'd say that we're deciding to have a crisis this time next year,” LeBrun said.

“Because the cycles to address the problem -- we need to go build 500 affordable homes in Moncton for example, and we have to decide that right now.”

On average, the building costs for each tiny home is about $50,000, with other associated costs, like power, water and sewer, adding an additional $38,000.

12 Neighbours take referrals the Social Development Department, but the community is mainly serving the Fredericton area when all regions of New Brunswick are seeing people living with homelessness.

"We're just a little bit addicted to crisis response, someone's hungry and you give them a sandwich, but if you keep doing that you normalize that kind of chronic situation as if it's an acute situation then you say well this is just a normal way to live,” LeBrun said.

“Now we're building all this infrastructure where people in Moncton are going to be housed in a large space living together,” he said – referring to an emergency shelter being created in Moncton.

LeBrun says creating homeless shelters is not the solution and that government should be creating affordable housing models ahead of next winter, such as the 12 Neighbours community. 

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