CBC: Rents double, Nova Scotians want to know if rent cap will survive
Posted March 16, 2023
Rents double, Nova Scotians want to know if rent cap will survive
The provincial government “is not in favor of a rent control regime” like those in place in other provinces.
Tenants and affordable housing advocates in Nova Scotia are concerned about the end of the temporary cap on rent increases and the intentions of a provincial government that is openly hostile to rent control.
A homeowners association, meanwhile, continues to oppose the limits placed on them and says it encourages them to leave the industry.
Why is the cap temporary?
Rent increases are currently limited to 2% per year in Nova Scotia. This cap was put in place by the former Liberal government in 2020, in response to the economic impact caused by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Progressive Conservative Party had indicated during the election campaign the following year that it no longer wanted a rent cap. The party was elected in August 2021, but eventually extended the measure because of the housing crisis.
However, the 2% cap is to end on December 31, 2023.
Ways to circumvent the rent cap
In the field, tenants are seeing in the meantime that landlords circumvent this measure , by evicting their tenants for various reasons, or by having them sign a fixed-term lease that must be renegotiated.
A new lease with a new tenant is not subject to the cap on rent increases, so the landlord can demand what he wants.
The recent experience of a Dartmouth resident is just one example of many in the Halifax area.
Elizabeth O’Hanley says she and her neighbor received a note from their landlord late last year telling them that their fixed-term leases would not be renewed when they expired in March. The owner said that he and his mother would come to live in their apartments.
In March, while looking for a place to stay on Kijiji, Elizabeth O’Hanley realized that the apartment she had just left — and for which she was paying $925 a month — was up for rent for $2,350 a month. Within days, both apartments were rented.
Joanne Hussey , a legal worker at the Dalhousie Legal Aid Service , says such examples are common in the greater Halifax area. She says it’s a taste of what will happen on a large scale when the rent cap disappears on December 31.
Rents are doubling or tripling, but citizens’ incomes have not tripled, stresses Joanne Hussey . This is without forgetting people who live on fixed incomes, for example retirees. There’s no way their economic situation will allow them to keep up with rent hikes of this magnitude , she said.
According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation ( CMHC), even with this temporary rent cap, housing prices rose an average of 9.3% in one year in Halifax, the largest increase in Canada.
The average price for a one-bedroom apartment in Halifax is now almost $2,000 a month, according to a search on Rentals.ca .
The Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia says it has identified nearly 800 people in Halifax who have been homeless for at least six months.
Max Chauvin, director of housing and homelessness at the City of Halifax, told a recent meeting of city council that if the rent cap was lifted at the end of the year, the City would be left with 500 to 1000 more homeless people in a few months.
Hannah Wood , ACORN Chapter Co-Directoron the Halifax Peninsula predicts that is exactly what will happen.
We’re going to see hundreds of tenants evicted because of rent hikes they can’t afford, and they’ll all be sleeping rough , she said Wednesday. There are no more places in shelters, affordable housing is not being built fast enough, and the planned construction will not be sufficient to meet basic housing needs.
In contrast, a group that represents landlords in the province says the rent cap is making life harder for them, and they want to see it go in December.
Things have to change. Preferably the abolition of the ceiling. If not, it needs to be adjusted to reflect current market conditions, i.e. rising housing operating costs , says Kevin Russell , chief executive of the Nova Scotia Real Estate Investment Owners Association. -Scotland.
The government must get involved. They have to fix this problem. They need to increase the housing stock. They need to give incentives to landlords to stay in business, and incentives to developers to build more homes , says Kevin Russell . They need to have a clear plan that will include help for landlords and help for tenants.
This plan is currently anything but clear, and rent control does not seem to be part of it.
Questioned Tuesday, the Minister of Internal Services, Colton LeBlanc, said that the government of Tim Houston is not in favor of a regime of rent control like those in place in other provinces.
He says his department is studying all options , but does not specify what those options are. He says his department is in regular contact with stakeholders. If there are any changes, they will be announced by the fall, he adds.
Article based on reporting by Nicola Seguin, by Paul Légère and Héloïse Rodriguez-Qizilbash for CBC