News / Halifax

'Out priced:' NDP to table rent control bill aimed at calming Halifax housing problems

The party is introducing a bill that would allow rental increases of just 0.8 per cent in the first year.

NDP MLA Susan Leblanc will introduce the Rental Fairness and Affordability Act in Province House on Tuesday.

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NDP MLA Susan Leblanc will introduce the Rental Fairness and Affordability Act in Province House on Tuesday.

The provincial NDP is introducing an act intended to help address what they call a housing crisis in HRM.

“We have a pretty serious (rent) affordability problem,” said NDP spokesperson Kyle Buott.

NDP caucus chair and Dartmouth North MLA Susan Leblanc will introduce the bill on Tuesday, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

The Rental Fairness and Affordability Act would introduce rent controls on residential units in Nova Scotia, with a focus on HRM.

“One in four households in HRM are spending more than 30 per cent of their income on rent, so that’s about 42,000 households,” Buott said, citing the 2015 Halifax Housing Needs Assessment report.

Standard guidelines define affordable housing as not exceeding 30 per cent of a household’s gross annual income.

If passed, the NDP’s legislation would allow rents to increase by just 0.8 per cent in the first year.

For a $1,000 per month unit, that would mean an $8 per month rental increase the first year.

“Most of the renters we have talked to have had rent increases of $20, $30, $40 a month,” Buott said.

LeBlanc said she’s proud to introduce the act proposing rent control legislation because she constantly hears from residents struggling with housing costs.

“People have high rents and they just can’t afford them. They have low incomes or they’re on income assistance or they’re workers and the rent is still too high,” Leblanc said.

She said there are mechanisms within the legislation that would protect landlords, allowing them to apply to raise rents beyond 0.8 per cent under specific circumstances.

“One of the big positives is that it also creates a more stable renting population…If people can afford where they’re living, they’re going to stay there,” she said.

“There’s less turnover, which means less repainting and remodelling and all of the things that landlords have to do every time somebody moves out.”

Leblanc said introducing rent control could also potentially help free up much-needed social housing units in HRM.

“There are 1400 people on the waiting list for social housing in HRM. We have a real lack of co-op housing and other types of social housing, and the rent control piece is not going to address that particularly,” she said.

“But it could alleviate the fact that people are being out-priced and having to go into social housing. It’s all part and parcel. We need to make housing in general much more affordable for people.”

She points to the province of Quebec, which has rent control, and to Ontario, which recently strengthened its regulations.

“A Liberal government in Ontario has seen fit to strengthen this and protect renters. I’m really hopeful this passes here,” she said.

“If it doesn’t happen it just continues all of these issues of low wages, high rents, lack of family doctors. This contributes to forcing people to move away, and we need people to be here and we need people to be able to function.”

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