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Meet a Halifax-area man whose rent could soon increase from $790 to $1,650

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia tenant worries for future once rent control ends' Nova Scotia tenant worries for future once rent control ends
Rent control became a major issue during the provincial election, especially in urban centres. While the NDP promised permanent rent control if elected, the premier-designate is on the record saying that rent control is not the solution to the housing crisis. While temporary rent control remains in place for now, some tenants are already being told their rent will increase the moment it’s lifted. Alicia Draus reports. – Aug 20, 2021

The day after the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party won the provincial election, Bedford resident Chris Stevens received a notice from his landlord.

“The letter said that once the temporary measures, the two per cent increase ends, that they’ll be raising our rent to 1,650.”

Currently, Stevens pays $790 for his two-bedroom apartment and says he cannot afford a 109 per cent increase.

“With what I make, the increase alone is almost 30 per cent of what I make a month, so that on top of what (rent) already is, it’s a significant chunk,” said Stevens.

At this time it is illegal for landlords to increase rent beyond two per cent, a measure that was implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. But it’s only temporary and is set to expire on either Feb. 1, 2022 or when the state of emergency ends – whichever comes first.

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Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burrill campaigned on a promise to implement permanent rent control if elected, a message that resonated in urban areas, with all ridings on the Halifax peninsula going orange.

“People know that they’re vulnerable to getting these 600, 700, 800 dollar increases which, in effect, are going to mean they’re going to have to move in a situation where there actually isn’t anywhere to move that they can afford to,” said Burrill.

It’s the exact situation Stevens says he now finds himself in. Not wanting to wait until rent control expires and he’s forced out, he’s actively looking for a new place to live, but with low vacancy rates it’s not easy, especially if he wants anything comparable to what he has now.

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“Places seem quite a bit more than a year ago when I came here,” he said.

“To find something like within a price range what I’m paying, it’s not going to be a two bedroom that’s for sure, it’ll have to be maybe a one bedroom.”

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Premier-Designate Tim Houston was not available for an interview on Friday but when asked about rent control on Wednesday he said that he does not believe rent control is the solution to the housing crisis.

“We’re going to continue to focus on solutions that actually make a difference,” said Houston. “That means actually increasing the housing stock and working with Nova Scotians to make sure they have affordable housing.”

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But Burrill says while those are admirable goals, they do nothing to address the current problem.

“Increasing stock, it will not come to fruition for some time, and those people who have those notices now, they need protection now,” said Burrill.

Stevens says the whole situation is challenging for renters right now because even if he manages to find another affordable apartment he could be in the same position next year.

He’s says in an ideal world, he wouldn’t rent at all, but with current house prices, purchasing a home also just isn’t a realistic solution. He’s chosen to speak out with the hope of bringing more attention to the issue so that things will change.

“There’s a lot of people that are having the same kind of issue,” he said.

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