KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Easily 400 people gathered at the Grand Parade in downtown Halifax to listen to speeches and march on Province House, demanding that the Liberal government enact rent control.
The rally was organized by ACORN Nova Scotia, a membership-based community union of low- and moderate-income people, which has advocated for rent control and landlord licensing for a very long time.
That so many people took time out from an exceptionally warm and lovely Saturday to show their support for rent control suggests how urgent the situation has become. A very low vacancy rate in the city and investors trying to make a quick buck will do that.
“There’s no money left to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, there’s no money for milk, which children need,” a tenant trying to deal with a rent increase told the crowd.
When asked how many in the crowd had seen their rent go up over the last year, half of the renters raised their hand. Many hands remained raised when next asked how many of these increases exceeded $350 per month.
The rent control ACORN is advocating for includes a cap on how much landlords can raise the rent per unit, not just for tenants they already have, but also for vacant apartments. This means that landlords cannot evict tenants in order to raise the rent, or increase rents exponentially in between tenants, one of the ACORN folks explained.
People say rent control will stop developers from building affordable housing and stop landlords from doing repairs, but neither is happening now regardless, she said.
As well, even with the low vacancy rate, we have too many apartments standing empty, the ACORN spokesperson said. “We also need a vacancy tax to encourage these developers to lower the rent.”
“And we need a full review of the Residential Tenancy Act. I’m sure anyone here who’s ever dealt with the act in court knows how dysfunctional that system is, and doesn’t defend the rights of tenants,” she said.
“It’s the job of the government to protect the people who are vulnerable,” said Lisa Roberts, MLA for Halifax-Needham and the NDP’s housing critic. Gary Burrill, the leader of the NDP also spoke.
“When premier Stephen McNeil or (Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing) Chuck Porter say rent control doesn’t work, you have to ask them, for who doesn’t it work? Most provinces have some form of rent control. There is no justification for rent going up 15% when inflation increases by much less,” Roberts said.
Between 2017 and 2019 MLA Lisa Roberts introduced a series of 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.
Another ACORN rally was set to occur this afternoon in Antigonish, reminding us that rent control is needed province-wide and not just in the city of Halifax.
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