featured Poverty

NDP proposes much needed legislation to support renters

Sobaz Benjamin and Lisa Roberts at this morning’s press conference. Photo Robert Devet

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – For many Nova Scotians renting an apartment in the community they call home is becoming very challenging. An incredibly tight market has caused landlords to raise rents, while renovictions, Airbnbs and condo conversions add to the general malaise.

It’s not just a Halifax problem. As we have reported, more and more people live in housing that is either too expensive, or in need of repairs from Sydney to Yarmouth. Meanwhile, reporter Kendall Worth has documented many cases of low income individuals pushed out of their home.

See also: Halifax’s disappearing rooming houses and the role of the media – an interview with professor Jill Grant

This morning at a press conference at Province House called by the Nova Scotia NDP, MLA Lisa Roberts talked about the NDP’s private member bills calling for transparency for folks looking for an apartment, rent control and a limit to the number of Airbnb units on the market.

Legislation calling for rent controls and Airbnb regulation was introduced earlier. Legislation that would increase transparency for people who are apartment hunting is new and will be introduced later this session.

This legislation would make inclusion of rents and fees mandatory in rental advertising so people don’t waste their precious time checking out apartments they can’t afford, said Roberts. This would also prevent bidding wars between tenants.

Filmmaker Sobaz Benjamin, a North End resident who attended the press conference, is learning the hard way how difficult it is to find a place. He lost the apartment he and his family occupied when hurricane Dorian tore the roof off the building and made the place unlivable. 

That happened well over a month ago but Benjamin is still searching. 

“It’s impossible to find something, we’re still trying. I can’t imagine what it would be like if you are a marginalized person,” Benjamin said. 

Adding to the difficulty is that Benjamin wants to stay in the community he currently calls home. Community is about how we relate to one another, and how we take on stewardship, he said.

Eric Jonsson. PhotoRobert Devet

Eric Jonsson is a community social worker who counts many homeless people among the people he advocates for. 

“I spend a lot of my day searching for places, talking to landlords,” said Jonsson. “In the eight years I have been doing this I have never seen it this difficult.”     

It’s not a trivial thing.

“Every day I call shelters, but only once in a while there is a bed. It’s unfathomable, it never used to be  like that,” Jonsson said. 

Jonsson called for an end to stop gap measures like rent supplements that only help a few. 

See also: News brief: Rent poor in Nova Scotia

“We’re not helping as long as people remain in competition (for living spaces),” Jonsson said. “We can’t rely on just the market. The market works for landlords and people with well paying jobs, but we need to look outside of market solutions, at things like non-profits, coops and public housing.”

While recognizing this larger picture, the Nova Scotia NDP hopes to at least provide some short term relief for renters. 

See also; Sorry, no kids. Adult only rentals counter to Nova Scotia Human Rights legislation

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  1. Long story, but in short, currently involved in a rental situation (with HRM) that forced the eviction of a single mother and her infant child as the result of an archaic by-law (that was enacted after initial permits were issued). Rent that was very affordable ($800 including all utilities, laundry and cable) for an updated, modern and clean rental with an ocean view. We attempted to “rectify” the situation and were told to remove the tenants immediately (within 30 days) or face fines of up to $100 per day as a result. The tenant has since moved out (now paying $1,000 plus all utilities and cable which is extremely difficult for her) and we have still not received a telephone call from HRM in response to many emails and phone calls. The Chester-St. Margarets MLA, Hugh McKay, brushed us off as well without a phone call (wonder why?).

  2. What can we as nova scotians do to enact rent control legislation? Given the new report about finding rentals in NS is harder than Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto combined there must be SOMETHING we can do.

    I can’t afford to move but I’m soon unable to live here.

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