N.S. government creates temporary protection for renters; tenants union calls it a ‘Band-Aid’ solution
Published Wednesday, November 25, 2020 2:48PM AST Last Updated Wednesday, November 25, 2020 10:33PM AST
HALIFAX -- The Nova Scotia government has announced new protections it says will protect renters from excessive rent increases and renovations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chuck Porter, the minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs, says the following will be ordered under the Emergency Measures Act:
- Rents cannot increase by more than two per cent per year
- Landlords will not be able to get an eviction order for renovations
The measures, announced during a news conference Wednesday, are only scheduled to stay in place until the provincial state of emergency is lifted, or Feb. 1, 2022 -- whichever comes first.
In a news release, the province says rental increase protections are retroactive, dating back to Sept. 1, 2020.
The province is also creating the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission, which will work with experts in the public, private, non-profit and academic sectors to make recommendations about affordable housing strategies and actions.
The commission is expected to release its first set of recommendations within the next six months.
A ‘BAND-AID SOLUTION’
ACORN, a tenants union that has been long advocating for rent control in the Halifax Regional Municipality, said it is “thrilled to see the province bend towards reason.”
However, the organization took issue with the temporary nature of the new protections.
“A cap on rent increases is an overdue first step, but we need to hold the province accountable in the long-term,” said ACORN in a news release. “Temporary rent control is meaningless if landlords can continue to raise rents and drive tenants from their homes once the pandemic is over.”
ACORN also said banning renovation-related evictions “does not go far enough in preventing the majority of evictions.”
The organization is calling for rent debt forgiveness, grants for those struggling to pay their rent, and long-term rent control.
“Anything less is a Band-Aid solution,” it said in the statement.
ACORN is also calling on the province to open up hotels and motels to people who are in unstable living situations.
ADDITIONAL SPENDING FOR HOMELESS
In what the province calls another step to address homelessness in the Halifax area, it also announced Wednesday that it is spending $1.7 million to replace 30 beds that were removed due to physical distancing requirements during the pandemic.
The province has not yet announced which business will provide the beds, but says more details will be released in the coming days.
Citing a double-whammy of the pandemic and an overheated housing market, the province also earmarked cash to provide more beds for the growing number of homeless, believed to be about 500 in halifax alone.
"Well, it is a major victory," said NDP leader Gary Burrill. "It's a major victory for all of those tenants, and all of those tenant's organizations."