Saltwire: Tax breaks for corporate landlords driving housing insecurity, NDP says
Posted May 8, 2023
The federal NDP says skyrocketing rents in places like Halifax are the result of governments coddling corporate landlords.
While big rental companies get tax breaks, tenants are left struggling, said NDP housing critic Jenny Kwan, who visited the city on Thursday.
“When the government says that they are going to respect people, that housing is a basic human right, they need to actually do it,” Kwan told reporters.
“And that means they need to invest in housing, they need to ensure that the corporate landlords, the real estate investment trusts, are not getting preferential tax treatment, walking away with hundreds of millions, billions of dollars.
“They need to pay their fair share and that money can be invested in housing so that people can access basic human rights to access housing.”
According to the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corp. the cost of rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Halifax went up 9.3 per cent between 2021 and 2022 to $1,449 per month.
“We should not be giving corporate welfare to a few and asking other people to dig deep into their pockets,” said Hannah Wood of the Nova Scotia chapter of ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.
“And you know what, there’s no more room in these pockets. Even what would be considered a middle-class Maritimer is now struggling to pay for groceries and pay for things for their children that they need, let alone people who have been consistently marginalized like people with disabilities and seniors. They’re not just on the edge anymore, they’re right off of it.”
In a news release, the NDP said the seven largest apartment-owning REITs have reaped a combined $1.5 billion through federal tax loopholes. The parliamentary budget officer recently reported that another $300 million in tax revenues will be lost in the next four years, the release said.
NDP MLA Suzy Hansen told the gathering that more must be done at the provincial level as well to address the housing crisis. She said more than 45 per cent of households in Nova Scotia spend 30 per cent or more on housing costs.
“Here in Nova Scotia, we need our provincial government to do more to help families afford their home,” she said. “We need serious investment in new non-profit and public housing. We need to implement permanent rent control and close the fixed-term lease loophole here in Nova Scotia.”
At the legislature Thursday, the Liberal party criticized the Progressive Conservatives for changing rental subsidy rules to reduce the number of people eligible for the support. Renters must now pay at least 50 per cent of their household income on housing costs, compared to 30 per cent previously.
MLA Braedon Clark took the PCs to task for saying the change was meant to prioritize those most in need and that spiking demand was running the program out of money.
Clark said more cash could have been injected into the program in the last budget to avoid changing the cut-off level.
“This government is spending hand-over-fist all over the place but the one place they don’t have interest in spending money is helping people who need it the most.”
Housing Minister John Lohr defended the government’s rent supplement approach, noting that they’re now portable from apartment to apartment for the tenant, and that $21 million had been added for a total of almost $50 million annually for the program.
“We have if not the best, one of the best programs in the country,” Lohr said.
Article by John McPhee for Saltwire