'It's ridiculous': Calls for affordable housing in Halifax area grow louder
HALIFAX -- Calls for action about the lack of affordable housing and increasing rental rates in some Maritime communities are growing louder.
Among those raising concerns is Halifax resident Fabian Vincent Donovan.
Now that he has a roommate, Donovan is able to afford his rent and his medication -- something that wasn’t always possible.
"Before I had the roommate and I was in a one-bedroom apartment, it was still too much. I had to make a choice between eating or taking my medications. So, I chose eating,” said Donovan.
He has lived in the same Spryfield apartment building for the last six years and, like many Haligonians, Donovan continues to see his rent rise.
He is working with ACORN -- an organization that advocates for people living on a low or moderate income -- to try and get the Nova Scotia government to enact rent control.
It’s the same thing his mother fought for in the 1970s.
"I'm fighting the same battle and it's ridiculous,” said Donovan.
The province hasn’t had rent control since the early 1990s. With the vacancy rate in Halifax at one per cent and skyrocketing rent prices, many people say they simply can’t afford it.
Dalhousie Legal Aid is getting a number of calls from people concerned about rent increases.
"I would say the market conditions have made the rental market into the wild west and the effects of this are being felt most severely by low-income people, people on fixed incomes,” said community legal worker Mark Culligan.
Culligan believes it’s time for the province to start regulating rent increases.
Welcoming Housing and Support Services in Halifax says they get at least a dozen calls a day from people looking for affordable places to live.
"The amount of people who are struggling to get by day-to-day, to meet their needs or just struggling to pay rent has gone through the roof,” said housing support worker Darcy Gillis. “Since Sept. 1, we've had approximately 108 intakes within our office. That's approximately 60 intakes more than the same time frame in 2019."
He says the municipality needs more housing stock.
"Our biggest concern right now is that we're quickly approaching colder weather, we are not sure what the plan is for the individuals that are currently sleeping outside or how many are currently sleeping outside,” said Gillis. “With the amount of phone calls that we're getting, we have a lot of concern that people are going to pass due to exposure or even with the potential of the virus.”
ACORN is planning a rally this weekend to demand the provincial government enact rent control -- something Nova Scotia Housing Minister Chuck Porter said last week wasn’t happening.
"The research that has been done proves that it doesn't work. One of the issues around that is that it discourages development,” he said last Thursday.
The cost of rent isn’t just an issue in HRM but across Nova Scotia and also in New Brunswick.
"We're seeing the same thing here in Moncton, as well,” said Moncton Centre MLA Rob MacKee. “The vacancy rates are really low right now, hovering around two per cent and we're also seeing rents skyrocketing, where people are having a hard time affording the new rents that people are putting on people right now."
McKee says housing is the number 1 issue his office is seeing.
"Right now, we're also seeing new property owners coming from outside the province, some new landlords from Ontario, buying up buildings, giving eviction notices to do renovations and then jacking up the rents on the tenants,” said McKee.
ACORN’s rally for rent control will take place outside Halifax City Hall at 2 p.m. Saturday.