HALIFAX -- There's lots of new apartment construction in Halifax these days, but with a growing population it's getting difficult to find an apartment.

"The rental market is distorted, skewed and tipped in the direction of landlords," said NDP leader Gary Burrill.

A study by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation found the vacancy rate in Halifax is just one per cent and concerns span beyond the Halifax Regional Municipality.

The NDP is calling on the Liberal government to:

  • introduce rent controls;
  • make investments for better affordable housing; and,
  • pass regulations to ensure all short-term rentals in the province are registered.

"The effect of it is to make sure that all short-term rentals need to be registered, not just those which are commercial, but those taking place in residential facilities as well," Burrill said.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says affordable housing takes on many forms in the province and he is making it a priority in the next budget.

"Our current budget that's coming up, that will be tabled in a few weeks, will have indication and reflection and strategy of how we deal with the issue of housing and a myriad of options that will be required to deal with the issue," McNeil said.

For the NDP, it's not just about money, but more governance over short-term rentals like Airbnb.

"What you can see on Kijiji are many units for rent only until May because right now it's low season for tourism, so actually there's no availability for places that are forever homes," said Lisa Roberts, the NDP's housing spokesperson.

Bill Stewart of Neighbours Speak Up shares the same concerns and has made the same observations.

"We also know houses that are completely unused that have been converted to short-term rentals," Stewart said. "These are houses that could be used by families."

It's a concern in rural areas and tourism hotspots along the coast.

"Cape Breton is another good example of that," said Ren Thomas at Dalhousie University's school of planning. "There has been a removal of a significant number of units from the long-term rental housing pool, as well as this kind of lost revenue from municipalities."

It's lost revenue because fewer taxes are paid by businesses like hotels, which is another issue the NDP plans to bring up when the legislature reconvenes on Friday.