CBC News New Brunswick: Rent cap not working, province says, but tenants’ rights advocates disagree
Posted October 13, 2022
Posted on October 11th, 2022
New Brunswick’s rent cap expires on Dec. 31 and a New Brunswick cabinet minister says while its renewal is not off the table, she doesn’t believe the rent cap is working.
“We are considering all the calls that we do receive from tenants, so just looking at that balanced approach, we don’t want to put in a measure to stop development,” said Service New Brunswick Minister Mary Wilson, who oversees issues related to apartment rents.
Before the 3.8 per cent rent cap was introduced early this year, some tenants reported receiving major rent increase notices, with some hiked up to 55 per cent.
Wilson said New Brunswick has a problematic vacancy rate. She believes that the rent cap is deterring developers from creating more housing.
Affordable housing, rent cap not mutually exclusive
Wilson said the temporary rent cap “hasn’t solved the affordable housing problem.” She said if anything, it’s made it worse.
But Nichola Taylor, chair of ACORN N.B., an organization that tackles social issues for low and moderate income people, disagrees. She said it’s unrealistic to say the rent cap isn’t working.
“There is no affordable housing because nobody is coming in to build. You can’t put that on the tenant, you cannot put that on these people who are struggling as it is right now,” said Taylor.
She said affordable housing and the rent cap are not mutually exclusive.
People need to be brought in to invest in and build affordable housing, said Taylor, and there also needs to be a rent cap, “so that anybody who’s living paycheque-to-paycheque, month-to-month, has a safety net to fall on knowing full well that their landlords cannot increase their rent above a certain percentage each year.”
Matthew Hayes, the spokesperson for the N.B. Coalition for Tenants Rights, said the argument that the rent cap isn’t working is “completely bonkers.”
“New Brunswick is a wild west for rent and renting. Landlords have more leeway in New Brunswick than in any other province in Canada, including Alberta,” said Hayes. “That is the reason why we’re seeing a fast evaporation of affordable housing stock that is creating more hardship, more poverty, more homelessness.”
Measures for tenants ‘laughable’ says N.B. coalition
Wilson said there are measures in place to support tenants. She referred to the rule that requires landlords to give six months’ notice for a rent increase, instead of three, as well as the rule that landlords can only increase a tenant’s rent once in a 12-month period.
Hayes called these measures “laughable.”
“They’re not adequate at all in terms of protecting tenants’ rights and providing some stability for tenants so that they know that they’ll be able to afford the next rent increase,” he said.
Wilson said if tenants receive rent increases they feel are unreasonable, they can contact the Residential Tenancies Tribunal.
But Taylor said there are issues that prevent the tribunal from being a good solution for tenants with “unreasonable” rent increases. She said not all tenants know about this avenue and how to access it. She also said that the tribunal is “one body,” and if it has an influx of complaints it will take time to look at each individual case and make a decision.
“It’s not practical at all to suggest that this is what people should be doing once that cap is lifted,” said Taylor.
She said the people who would be most affected by the rent cap expiring will be vulnerable populations. This includes people living on low to moderate incomes, single-parent families, seniors on fixed incomes and people with disabilities.
Taylor said the “right thing” for the government to do is to make a permanent two per cent rent cap along with a ban on renovictions.
Hayes said the tenancies tribunal “doesn’t have the teeth” to protect tenants and going to the tribunal is not always an option.
“We heard over the course of the summer from numerous people in different parts of the province who received rent increases above 3.8 per cent,” said Hayes.
“Fearing retribution, [they] decided not to complain with the Residential Tenancies Tribunal because there’s a perception amongst tenants that the RTT is not able to help them, is not able to defend their interests.”
With the rent cap set to expire at the end of the year, Wilson said she knows people are worried. She said renewing the cap is still a possibility and that the government is still reviewing it and working to make “that proper decision.” She said as soon as the decision is made to renew or not renew the rent cap, she will share the news.
Taylor said if the rent cap is not renewed, there’s a big problem.
“[The government] should be looking at these people who are vulnerable, and who are struggling, and they should be wanting to help them,” she said.
She said individuals should not have to make the decision about what necessity, whether it be groceries or utilities, has to be cut in order to afford rent.
Hayes said it isn’t “a radical ask” for the rent cap to be permanent.
“There are many provinces with rent control legislation in place,” said Hayes. “And there’s no reason why New Brunswick can’t be one of those provinces too.”