Students discuss affordability and the province’s housing situation with our provincial representative
Mount Allison was lucky enough to host Megan Mitton last Wednesday, March 8, from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm in Tweedie Hall. Mitton is the provincial representative for the Memramcook-Tantramar region and our local MLA. The event was organized by Ngoc Huynh, the VP of External Affairs for Mount Allison’s Student Union (MASU).
“I actually learned this idea from our university neighbours – Saint Thomas University and UNB Fredericton,” Huynh explained. “They were the ones [who] started this initiative first, […] so I contacted them, asked for their tips, and we went from there!”
The talk was originally arranged to give students the opportunity to share their views on topics like affordability, environmental sustainability, and healthcare with MLA Mitton. Housing was a particularly pressing topic, Huynh commented, since “lately in Sackville, there are [rising] concerns about housing affordability and lack of options.” New Brunswick is currently facing a housing crisis, with the number of homeless people in the province reaching a record high last winter, according to Global News. The housing crisis has been a point of concern for many Mt. A students due to high rent prices in the area, which can make it difficult to afford other necessities as well as expensive university fees. Unfortunately, the costs of living keep increasing; some landlords in Sackville have decided to raise their rent for the 2023-2024 school year.
The Red Barn, an apartment complex popular among students on Salem Street, is increasing its rent from $1,425 to $1,650 for three-bedroom apartments starting in May, meaning that monthly payments will increase from $475 to $550 for students living in those units. “It’s a pretty significant increase,” says Liam Grunau, a third-year physics student who currently lives in a three-bedroom unit in the complex. “Hopefully the extra fees will get put to good use by the landlords,” he added.
Huynh was initially skeptical about the student engagement towards this session but noted that the students were very engaging and eager to talk with MLA Mitton. In response to the students’ concerns about affordable housing, MLA Mitton suggested that students “bring the problem [to the] Housing Hearing session next Thursday, and challenge the tenant rights in this province,” Huynh reported. The Housing Hearing session will be held Thursday, March 16, from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm at the Sackville Commons Co-op at 18 Lorne Street, but will also be broadcast via Zoom. According to Tantramar’s Facebook page, “the event is an opportunity for renters to learn about their rights and responsibilities, available resources, and understand the role of the Residential Tenancies Tribunal.” The Residential Tenancies Tribunal tries to resolve conflicts between landlords and tenants in the province and is a particularly valuable resource, considering there is no legal aid for tenancy issues in New Brunswick.
In addition to discussing housing, students were able to talk to MLA Mitton about topics such as affordability, healthcare, the environment, the impacts of COVID-19, and anything else that sparked their interest. Huynh said that “[the students] learned more new things through MLA Mitton’s explanations,” but recognized that “there is a need for this kind of session more – [for] the representative of different kinds of government to speak informally with the student body.”