New Brunswick

More volunteers needed to help solve housing crisis, N.B. non-profit groups say

A shortage of volunteers is putting strain on the work that non-profit organizations in New Brunswick are able to do to build and manage more homes amid a housing crisis.

There are 40-50 per cent fewer volunteers than pre-pandemic, says non-profit builder

Non-profit housing organizations haven't had issues securing funding, but rather with retaining volunteers they've relied on in the past to help get homes built. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

More volunteers are going to be needed to help solve the housing crisis in New Brunswick, according to non-profit organizations that build and manage homes in the province.

Habitat for Humanity New Brunswick has drawn on volunteer board directors, tradespeople and donors to build 88 homes in the province over the past 20 years.

But in the years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, its ability to build new homes has been hurt by a reduction in the number of people willing to volunteer their time, said Perry Kendall, the organization's CEO.

"I respect the fact that there's more stresses on people today, whether that be financial stresses or work stress and all of the other demands of of life," Kendall said.

"But it really has been a challenge for non-profits to continue to do the work that we're doing and in our case ... to increase the impact, because the need has increased."

Perry Kendall smiles for a photo.
Perry Kendall, CEO of Habitat for Humanity New Brunswick, says the non-profit organization has about 40 to 50 per cent fewer volunteers compared to before the pandemic. (Submitted by Perry Kendall)

Habitat for Humanity builds affordable homes for low-income families based on a series of criteria that must be met.

For each home, Kendall said the organization will usually rely on a team of 100 to 200 volunteers to get the job done.

But since the pandemic, the number of volunteers has dropped by 40 to 50 per cent, resulting in delays to some of the organization's projects.

"I'm very concerned because the need has never been greater and ... it's absolutely frightening to hear the stories of the situations that families are living in here in New Brunswick."

Campaign to recruit volunteers

Having enough volunteers is a big issue facing not-for-profit housing organizations in New Brunswick said Peter Corbyn, executive director of the New Brunswick Non-profit Housing Association.

"Oddly, no, [the issue is] not funding. It's the person power," said Corbyn.

"It's just people getting involved to play a role, whether it's a skilled tradesperson, a board member, property managers — the entire sector is, for the most part, [at] short capacity."

Peter Corbyn stands outside the Fredericton Playhouse.
Peter Corbyn says the New Brunswick Non-profit Housing Association is trying to encourage the public to help support local housing organizations through volunteering or donations. (Aidan Cox/CBC)

Corbyn said his organization represents about 170 non-profit housing organizations, which operate about 6,500 units across the province.

Making the volunteer shortage worse is that there are about 1,000 board positions across those organizations, filled by members who are set to retire soon.

"We need to start bringing on more board members, especially from a succession planning and sustainability perspective."

On Tuesday, Corbyn was busy setting up for an event that night at the Fredericton Playhouse titled Let's Solve the Housing Crisis.

It's one of a list of events that are part of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association's National Congress on Housing and Homelessness, happening this week in Fredericton.

Corbyn said the hour-long Tuesday event was a call to action, showing data related to the housing crisis, as well as recorded interviews with people who've gone from being homeless to being housed through the work of non-profits.

He said from 400 to 500 people had signed up for the event, which was geared toward encouraging anyone to get involved as a volunteer or a donor for a non-profit housing organization.

"What we plan on doing here is to start a process to educate ... the general public about what they can do to play a role ... either professionally, or as a volunteer, or through donations."

Corbyn said anyone who couldn't attend the event but wanted to learn more about how they could get involved could do so by visiting


Aidan Cox


Aidan Cox is a journalist for the CBC based in Fredericton. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter @Aidan4jrn.