KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – As part of my journalism for the Nova Scotia Advocate, and also as part of other advocacy projects I do in my community, I sometimes meet with MLAs to discuss issues that are related to poverty here in Halifax.
Over the years I have often met with MLAs Lisa Roberts, Gary Burrill, and Susan Leblanc. They have always been very helpful and interested in what I have to say. There is always so much you want to talk to them about, and time with them is so limited.
There were two burning issues on my mind when I met with Dartmouth North MLA Susan Leblanc again recently.
#1 – Preparing a question about special diets to be asked in the upcoming sitting at Province House.
#2 – Rents in Dartmouth North getting more and more expensive.
First we talked about asking a question in the upcoming session of the legislation about how hard it is to get approved for special diet allowances.
Susan looked at the special diet chart in section 6.3.3 of the policy manual. She agreed that because doctors have studied in medical school for 7 to 10 years the policy needs to be reworded so that the opinion of doctors cannot simply be overruled by caseworkers.
The second burning issue was the rising rents in Dartmouth North. A large number of people in her riding have been given notices of rent increases.
Susan told me that her constituency office in Dartmouth North has been working flat out during June and July trying to stop some of her constituents becoming homeless. trying to negotiate with landlords, finding cheaper apartments, and trying to get rent subsidies for others.
Susan said that some of her constituents who paid $600 for rent when she became the MLA are now paying upwards of $700. We agreed that this is outright insane and according to her conversations with landlords in her area of Dartmouth it is not going to get any better any time soon.
“Basically what I was saying is that we have noticed in our office a real upward trend in people needing help because they are either losing housing because their rents are going up way higher than they can afford or buildings that have been renovated are now renting for a lot higher,” she wrote in an email.
Even more recently she has been dealing with complaints about landlords discriminating against people on income assistance who had been approved for rent subsidies. As well, she is dealing with two cases where tenants are being evicted, apparently for no good reason.
She told me that her office is doing everything they can to fight the eviction of both these people. All we can do is keep our fingers crossed.
“There is an extremely low vacancy rate right now and so landlords can be much more selective in who they rent to and many people are finding it extremely difficult to find adequate housing,” she said.
To me it shows that Nova Scotia needs rent control laws. And of course the income assistance rates need to increase.
Kendall Worth is an award-winning anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.
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