Posted September 24, 2021
On Thursday morning, traffic on Hollis Street was moving even slower than normal. Cars and semi-trucks were honking, some repeatedly, as they approached the provincial legislature—but it wasn’t because of a mid-morning traffic jam. Beginning at 10am, dozens of people gathered outside the provincial legislature to call on the government to extend rent control, which is currently set to end when the COVID state of emergency is called off or on February 1, whichever comes first.
“Ho ho, hey hey, rent control is here to stay,” chanted the crowd, at different points led by organizers from social justice advocate group ACORN NS or by speakers including NDP leader and Halifax MLA Gary Burrill. The Coast NDP leader Gary Burrill said a permanent rent control law shouldn’t be "approached from the point of view of investments or the point of view of markets.“
“We have a government that has said very clearly that it is not interested in providing this form of protection to the people of Nova Scotia,” Burrill said of rent conrol. “And that is the issue that is before us.”
Burrill slammed premier Tim Houston’s focus on the housing market and creating more “housing stock” as a solution. “This question that is before us of permanent rent control, this is not a question to be approached from the point of view of investments or the point of view of markets,” Burrill said, adding that the families and people getting evicted should be the focus. Related Tim Houston (again) rejects rent control: “Nobody wants to see somebody homeless,” said the premier-designate, who couldn’t explain how he intends to bridge the housing gap. Related Nova Scotia announces temporary rent control: Here's the nitty gritty on Nova Scotia’s new protections for renters.
The rally’s other speakers included new Halifax Needham MLA Suzy Hansen, Christine Saulnier from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and CUPE president Nan McFadgen.
“During the campaign I spoke to many constituents in Halifax Needham,” said Hansen when she addressed the crowd. “Many of whom are moving because the property was sold and their rent would be too high for them to pay.”
In Nova Scotia, complaints of rental fees skyrocketing during the pandemic because of low housing stock are what led to rent control in the first place. But as the protection for renters is set to end, some have already gotten a warning that their rent will increase drastically as soon as it’s able to.
“Where I’m at, the main concern is that the rent is expensive,” said Lisa Hayhurst, an ACORN member and Dartmouth chapter chair, in an interview with The Coast just before the rally began. “And it lacks repairs, so really it’s substandard living for what I’m paying for rent.”
Hayhurst, who lives in the Highfield Park area of Dartmouth, said she doesn’t expect repairs to be done any time soon but she does expect—and fear—a rent increase. Some of her neighbours have already gotten notices their rent will go up by hundreds of dollars as soon as rent control ends.
“I just got involved with ACORN ‘cause there’s been so many issues where I live,” she said. “The tenants are really upset with what’s been going on and the rent cap and stuff, they’re upping the rent and they’re not fixing things.”
Hayhurst says she expects more of her friends, neighbours and maybe even herself to end up in precarious housing situations if the rent cap is lifted. She doesn’t know whether the rally will change anything, but just wants the government to pay attention.
“At least it’ll make them listen. That’s the main thing, is to get them to listen, because the rent cap is important,” Hayhurst says. “Because there’s so many people that just cannot afford to live.”
Article by Victoria Walton for The Coast