As the temporary rent cap implemented in New Brunswick winds down, stakeholders fear tenants will be burdened with hefty increases to make up for the lost time.
Introduced in the spring, retroactive to Jan. 1, the rent cap prevents landlords from increasing rents by more than 3.8 per cent. It ends on Dec. 31.
“There’s a lot of anxiety right now around what’s going to happen come January, and we just really want to have this resolved before the end of December,” Sarah Lunney, a member of ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) New Brunswick, told Global News on Saturday.
“We want to see rent control committed to as a permanent policy option within the province.”
Members of ACORN NB gathered at King’s Square in Saint John on Saturday morning, petitioning for the province to implement a permanent rent cap,ban renovictions, and overhaul the Residential Tenancies Act.
In addition to the permanent rent cap, Lunney said they want to see the restructured model for implementing the measure.
“We would like to see it be tied to the unit instead of tied to tenancy. So, when it’s tied to the unit, it actually disincentivizes eviction because you can’t increase the rent if you turn over your tenant.”
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In May, Mary Wilson, the Minister responsible for Service New Brunswick, told a legislative committee permanent rent caps were not an option.
“Implementing rent caps permanently could have a negative impact on the development of additional rental units and slow down investment in the housing sector. For this reason, it was decided to implement this measure temporarily,” Wilson remarked.
Wilson was not made available for an interview, and Global News was not provided with a statement before publication.
Matthew Hayes, a spokesperson for the New Brunswick Tenants Right Coalition, said implementing a rent cap long-term won’t stunt development.
“What we’re saying is that for the limited number of relatively affordable housing that exists in the private market, to put a cap on that,” he said.
“These are not just someone’s property… rental properties are not just something that you can extract profit from, these are people’s homes.
“The public has an interest in ensuring that they’re regulated in a fair manner, and the conditions that we’re seeing now are not fair.”
Hayes said the coalition has already begun to hear of sizeable rent increases being doled out. In New Brunswick, most landlords must provide notice of an increase about six months in advance.
“I was speaking with a woman recently, she didn’t know what would happen if she faced a 50 or 60 per cent rent increase. She would not be able to afford it, and there were no other places for her to go,” said Hayes.
“She would lose her home. She could potentially be homeless. People are facing that type of prospect.”
Due to the legislative requirements, Hayes said the province will have to be proactive to introduce a new rent cap. If that doesn’t happen, he fears the New Brunswick will see a significant spike in evictions.