MONCTON -- The city of Moncton is dealing with the largest number of vacant homes it has seen in recent years.

Fire crews are tasked with securing the buildings every week, but squatters are still finding their way in.

Once a week, crews from the Moncton Fire Department inspect and secure each of the 62 properties currently on the department's "vacant and unoccupied" list.

"Most of these buildings are brought to our attention typically from complaints from the neighbourhood, from neighbours," said fire prevention officer Charles Leblanc.

But Leblanc says the buildings themselves aren't usually their biggest concern. Instead, it's the people who are living inside them illegally.

"A lot of people on the street are looking for refuge so they'll break into the properties and they'll find whatever means they can to try and keep warm, right up to actually starting a fire inside the building," Leblanc said.

Rob Brydges owns a home renovation company in Moncton. He says he has a difficult time keeping squatters out of the buildings.

"Anybody who has vacant properties right now are dealing with this," Brydges said. "The fire department is dealing with it.

They're making homes in the back yard, under the deck, they're trying to get through the windows; it's not good."

He says he feels like he's run out of options for keeping his properties protected.

"We charged a few, and that's the last thing you want to do, because these people need help more than they need a criminal record now," Brydges said. "But we have to keep them off the property, so we call the fire marshal. They're great, they come in, but sometimes we have to go back to a property three, four times a week."

City councillor Charles Leger says he would like to see some of the vacant properties turned into low-income housing.

"Until we have affordable housing, we have the proper shelter, we have those different availability of choices, then really we're just going to continue this," Leger said.

Leger says the city will be hearing suggestions on the issue from the Moncton homelessness steering committee in the coming weeks.