BUILDing non-traditional partnerships to achieve healthy housing
As the New Brunswick Healthy Housing Collaborative, nears the end of its first community outreach/home assessment season; we have already seen certain relevant housing issues rise to the top.
Among them is tenant/landlord relations, specifically regarding unmet necessary home repairs. To add some context, New Brunswick has a significant number of “absentee landlords”, which means that many homeowners in New Brunswick do not reside in their property, making these investing properties. In fact, approximately 75% of residents in the city are renters. The fact that there is a significant number of New Brunswick residents who are undocumented has led some landlords to deny their tenants proper repairs due to the barriers these residents have which include accessing the court system as well as obtaining legal representation.
These barriers are a result of (1) tenants’ lack of knowledge of their rights (2) lack of funds to obtain legal representation and (3) fear of deportation. It is the latter that some landlords have unfortunately leveraged against making necessary repairs. In order to address this issue, the New Brunswick Housing Collaborative, has looked beyond our traditional health partners to find solutions. We established a relationship with Central Jersey Legal Services (CJLS), who provided a tenants’ rights workshop for our Community Health Ambassadors (CHA). CHA’s can now provide more awareness of tenant rights in the community. CJLS has also agreed to continue to provide legal information as needed. The Collaborative has also strengthened its relationship with New Brunswick’s Rent Control and Housing Inspections Departments to develop a streamlined referral system for complaints with an option of filing anonymously to help avoid any retaliation towards these residents in need, as well as, explore developing and supporting city policies that will enhance healthy housing overall. We will continue to look for other options to address this issue such as working towards creating a H.E.A.L. Collaborative, Education and Health Law Clinic with Rutgers University School of Law to provide legal representation to those who can’t otherwise afford to do so and who also don’t qualify for low income legal assistance.
As this and other relevant housing issues arise, our Collaborative will look to expand our horizons by seeking non-traditional partners that are not just beneficial, but necessary to create a culture around healthy housing and health overall in New Brunswick.