Burrill and ACORN are both calling on the McNeil majority government to create a provincial rental support program to help low-income tenants.
The proposed program would pay back tenants’ rental debt due to the COVID-19 pandemic to help people with their debt and get back on their feet.
Mila McKay is a member of ACORN and has experienced issues around housing insecurity and has struggled to maintain rent and afford an apartment, while also having issues finding regular work due to mental health issues and their identity as a trans person.
“Right now I am trying to move from a small one-bedroom sublet and trying to find a place to move to,” said McKay.
Before the pandemic hit in March, Halifax was experiencing a housing crisis, with a vacancy rate below one per cent, which meant finding a rental apartment was like finding a needle in a haystack.
ACORN says if the eviction ban isn’t extended, it could be devastating, forcing thousands of tenants from their homes.
“We’re looking at, at least, a couple thousand evictions,” said McKay. “And it needs to be known, it’s a fact, that not all of these people have not been paying their rent, some of them are just short a little bit. That’s a couple thousand people that are going to end up in the streets and that can’t happen.”
In an emailed statement on Tuesday, a spokesperson with the province wrote that the temporary ban was in place to give people time to access federal and provincial financial aid programs.
But community workers stress that not everyone qualifies for financial relief programs and that the Canada Emergency Response Benefit didn’t replace the loss of a full-time income for many people.
The province did not respond to a request for clarification on whether the moratorium would be extended.
As long as the state of emergency continues, the government needs to extend the eviction ban, Burrill said.
He added that there needs to be a government program implemented to help low-income tenants pay back some of their debt to landlords.
“We need the government to work with the people and set up a program, whether that’s rental grants or rent relief or rent forgiveness of some kind,” said Burrill. “You don’t put people on the street during a state of emergency.”