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Telegraph Journal: Mock funeral procession held for N.B.'s rent cap - ACORN Canada

Telegraph Journal: Mock funeral procession held for N.B.’s rent cap

Posted January 4, 2023

Members of a tenants’ rights group donned black Tuesday as they marched down Main Street in Moncton, carrying a small coffin. While the coffin was empty, they said it symbolized thousands of dollars New Brunswickers will need to shell out after a government-imposed temporary rent cap expired on Dec. 31.

Members of ACORN New Brunswick hosted the mock funeral to mourn the loss of the legislation, which was
imposed on June 10, 2022 and capped rent increases at 3.8 percent. Group co-chair Vanessa Jones said without the cap, they’re hearing from tenants around the province who are now facing rent increases between 11 and 45 percent.

It’s an issue they’re seeing province-wide but one she said they’re seeing happening more frequently in the larger areas including Metro Moncton; Saint John and Frederirtnn, she said it’s “very much a possibility” that People who can’t afford a rent increase will end up homeless. Peter jongeneelen, co-chair of ACORN, said people living on fixed incomes, including seniors, can’t keep up with rising tents. “We’re being told to work harder, come up with the money, and we don’t care as long as we make money as land-lords”, he said.

“It’s an outright insult to those who are struggling to survive.” He said tenants are feeling angry about the cap coming to an end, and panicked about the uncertainty it’s caused. In December, Moncton resident Las-sie Martin spoke with the Times & Transcript about the increased notice she received last August. She said she won’t be able to afford the $400 rent increase her landlord notified her will take effect in March. “With the rising rent costs I have abso-lutely no idea how I will be able to sur-vive;she said. As of Jan. 3, she’s yet to find a new apartment that’s within her budget. She said she applied for assistance through the tribunal months ago but has yet to hear anything from them. While waiting for help she said she’s stuck living with cockroaches and other maintenance issues that aren’t being addressed despite the landlord asking for more money.

Jongeneelen gave a eulogy during the protest, saying the rent cap was a “dear-ly loved housing policy’ that lowered the rent increase he was facing last year. He said his rent was supposed to in-crease by $100 per month, but it went up by only $34 a month due to the legislation.

‘Rent cap saved me personally 566 a month or $792 in 2022,” he said. He said the rent cap helped him feel secure as a tenant. Jongeneelen and other members of the group delivered an autopsy report to the office of the Residential ‘Tenancies Tribunal.

Although no representative of the tribunal came out to speak with the group, their report was taken by the ad-ministration desk who told the group they would forward it to Service New Brunswick Minister Jill Green. Rent caps are currently in place in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island and there is a temporary cap in place in Nova Scotia until Dec. 31.

Bruce Macfarlane, a spokesperson for the province, said on Tuesday that in December 2021, the Residential Tenancies Tribunal began a marketing campaign that aimed to inform tenants of their rights and where to go for help. “Once a tenant applies to have a rent increase notice reviewed, the Residential Tenancies Tribunal will review the new rent amount to ensure it is with-in market value comparable to rental amounts in similar units in the same building and neighborhood,” he said. “‘This includes the size and condition of the unit, number of rooms and bathrooms, amenities included in the rent, age of the building and recent renovations, if applicable. New rent amounts found to be outside of market value will be denied!

According to Macfarlane, legislation that came into effect on Dec. 16, 2022, allows new rent amounts that are significant and within market value to be phased in over two to three years and gave tenants 60 days, instead of 30, after being served a notice of rent increase to apply for assistance from the tribunal.

“Extending the application period for rental reviews to 60 days allows more time for tenants to seek help to ensure the increase was correctly served, meets all legislative requirements and is within market value,” he said. Jongeneelen said it’s not enough to replace the cap. “It’s not even close to being a form of actual rent control; he said. “People will have to find out how to do more with less, and they will be moving into ever more precarious housing situations. Including overcrowding apartments”.

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Article written by Paige Woodard