N.B. tenant rights group demands extension of temporary rent cap

Click to play video: 'Concerns raised as rent cap in New Brunswick set to expire'
Concerns raised as rent cap in New Brunswick set to expire
At the backdrop of the new amendments to legislation that will help landlords, tenants still have concerns. The rent cap is coming to an end in less than 60 days and Acorn NB says it needs to be extended. Nathalie Sturgeon was there for a protest Tuesday. – Nov 1, 2022

Tenants in New Brunswick are worried about the elimination of the rent cap and a small group from ACORN NB staged a protest to demand it be extended into 2023.

Nichola Taylor, chair of ACORN NB, said tenants are facing housing insecurity and the rent cap is one thing the government can do to allow for some protection.

“They put the right step in place in March with the temporary rent cap, but now we have to make that permanent, because there are just too many people living in difficult situations,” she said on Tuesday.

In March, the government put in place a rent cap at 3.8 per cent and changed legislation to allow for six months before an increase can take place.

“We’re talking 20, 30, 40 per cent, it’s ridiculous,” Taylor said of potential rent hikes. “We need something to stop that from happening because these people can’t afford to live like that, they shouldn’t be facing a decision, ‘do I keep the roof over my head or do I put food on table?’”

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Taylor said tenants are unable to sustain the rents in the city, but explained the problem exists in all parts of the province.

“We need some leeway, we need some relief,” she said.

For Angus Fletcher, organizer with NB Coalition for Tenants Rights and ACORN, now is the worst time to be facing any uncertainty in the protections against rent increases or renovictions.

“Winter is coming,” he said. “The Tories have spoken quite a bit about building their way out of this crisis, but if all they do is build and they have no consumer protections and no price controls then what they’re saying is they are willing to leave those who are middle- and low- income behind.”

Fletcher sees a bit of positivity in that no commitment has been made yet, hoping that the government is still discussing the rent cap extension but time is running out.

“The voice of New Brunswickers is on our side,” Fletcher said.

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However, the New Brunswick Apartment Owners Association said there isn’t enough supply, despite the consistent development reported by the major city centres.

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Willy Scholten, the association’s president, said the rent cap isn’t the solution to the problem – incentives to build and property tax reform are needed instead.

“There definitely needs to be more that is done to encourage more rent supply,” he said in an interview on Tuesday. “I think the biggest problem is at 1.7 per cent vacancy, and I would say once CMHC does their reporting again in January we’re probably going to go down on that … the problem is we don’t have enough and in the meantime costs are going up.”

Inflation is a problem, Scholten said, both for loans and building supplies.

Meanwhile, Minister Jill Green, who was recently named minister responsible for housing, has been unwilling to say whether the rent cap will be extended or whether cabinet is discussing it, noting she has only had the file for two weeks.

“I’m sure you can acknowledge that cabinet confidentiality is important and I won’t be speaking about what we’re talking about in cabinet,” Green said.

Former Minister Mary Wilson said it was being discussed by cabinet in the house earlier this month prior to her being shuffled out of the role.

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The rent cap is scheduled to end on Dec. 31.

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