Telegraph Journal: ‘We’re going back to square one’: Rental advocates call for permanent rent control
Posted September 19, 2022
SAINT JOHN • After a temporary rent cap was a “breath of fresh air” in 2022 tenants are concerned about what will come in the new year, according to a housing advocate.
Housing advocacy group NB ACORN held rallies and petition-signing events in Fredericton, Saint John, Moncton and Bathurst on Saturday as part of their End the NB Housing Crisis campaign, which it said seeks permanent rent control and a ban on renovictions in a press release. Nichola Taylor, chair of NB ACORN, said her group in Fredericton got 75 signatures at a picket and petition-signing at entrance of Kings Place Mall, and that the group is near 800 names on a petition to bring in a permanent rent cap once the current one expires at the end of the year.
“Lots of people are supporting this, lots of people are backing it, because the housing crisis in New Brunswick is quite disastrous at the moment,” Taylor said.
A temporary rent cap of 3.8 per cent for 2022 created a “breath of fresh air” for tenants, but the planned expiry of that cap Dec. 31 is causing concern, she said.
“It was paused for a little while, and it helped for a little while, but we’re going back to Square One once this is lifted,” said Taylor, who added that the twin pressures of inflation and colder weather will be felt by tenants.
“People are suffering already from their normal food shopping,” Taylor said. “People on fixed incomes are going to be put into situations where they are going to have to make the decision, do I pay my rent or do I eat? And nobody should have to live like that.”
Service New Brunswick’s spokesperson Jennifer Vienneau said earlier in September that the province “continues to monitor the housing situation in New Brunswick” and will “introduce additional measures if necessary,” the Telegraph-Journal reported this past week. Vienneau also noted that other rent control measures such as a one-per-year limit on increases and longer notice period introduced at the end of last year will stay in place.
In Saint John, ACORN member Sarah Lunney said they heard from tenants about their concerns during a petition-signing event in King Square.
“We’ve had a lot of people come here and tell their stories, say that they want to sign the petition, they want to see something done, so it’s very encouraging,” she said. “It’s people of all ages. We’ve had seniors come over, we’ve had young people come over and everyone in between.”
Linda Taylor, 75, said rents in her building have gone up, and while she has a “good decent landlord,” she’s worried about losing her apartment if the building sells.
“There’s no security any more in anybody’s mind, I will tell you that,” she said.
Cassandra Evans-Ketch, 23, said she was out to support the cause after her own housing issue. The Telegraph-Journal reported last Monday that she had discovered rats in what was supposed to be a new apartment after putting down a damage deposit. She called the petition on the permanent rent cap, as well as a second petition in Saint John on landlord licencing, “incredibly important.”
“Landlord licensing would prevent people from being in situations like me because of mandatory inspections and accountability that they currently don’t have.”
Jonathon Smith, 24, said he’s moving out after fights with his landlord including over a deck he said was reclassified as a fire escape, said that motivated him to be a part of the campaign.
“It just shouldn’t be a thing that people are paying large amounts of money for shoddy craftsmanship and apartments that are not even safe to live in,” he said.
Nichola Taylor said that things went “extremely well” in Moncton, with a rally at Assumption Place, and she said that a picket at the intersection of Main and Douglas in Bathurst has been well-received by people there who have been hoping for more programming in the north of the province. ACORN hopes to fill out their petition with 2,000 names to deliver to the legislature by November, she said. The petition is available online at acorncanada.org.
Kathy Wills, 62, who isn’t affiliated with the ACORN campaign, said she has sent letters to MLAs, including a new one in August, and received two responses confirming receipt. Wills, who’s lived in the same building since 1997, said she’s worried she may be pushed out when the cap expires, and is pushing for the government to tackle the issue in the fall session, not in the spring.
“I think the government needs to deal with it now rather than later,” she says. “Why in October can you not make a decision or at least discuss making a decision?”
Article by Andrew Bates for the Telegraph Journal