University students forced out of Halifax apartment worry about steep housing costs

Click to play video: 'Halifax renters scrambling for housing after fixed-term leases end'
Halifax renters scrambling for housing after fixed-term leases end
Some Halifax university students say they’re scrambling to find an affordable place to live. They say their current landlord is forcing them out of their homes so they can rent the spaces at a higher price. Skye Bryden-Blom reports. – Mar 17, 2023

Some Dalhousie University students say they’re scrambling to find an affordable place to live.

They say their current landlord is forcing them out of their units in order to rent the spaces at a higher price, a practice the province admits is challenging, but also legal.

“People are just letting landlords do what they want,” says Natalia Boada. “They’re letting them get richer, and not allowing us to be left with anything.”

She’s been living at The Commodore along Oxford Street since 2021. But she and other tenants say they were not given the option to resign a fixed-term lease.

The Commodore at Oxford. Skye Bryden-Blom/Global News

“I don’t think Halifax is a place where I can afford to live as I figure out the next part of my life after school,” Boada says.

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Landlords are not required to renew a fixed-term lease in Nova Scotia. They can rent units out to new tenants at higher prices without being subjected to the two per cent rent cap.

Read more: N.S. housing crisis: How the fixed-term lease ‘loophole’ can be ‘easily abused’

Daria Oanes says she learned her lease would not be renegotiated after seeing an ad online showing units in her building listed at about $200 more per month.

Daria Oanes stands outside The Commodore building with a friend. She’s one of many students whose fixed-term lease is not being renegotiated. Skye Bryden-Blom/Global News

“They never explicitly kicked us out,” she says. “They never renewed our lease to be able to increase the rent for that much so we’re just scrambling to find a place to live for next year now.”

She says it’s challenging for someone who just wants an affordable place to live as she finishes her degree. She’s a third-year Psychology student at Dalhousie University.

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“We pay to go to school here,” Oanes says. “So we have to be here, we have to find a place to live.”

Read more: ‘It’s scandalous:’ People in Halifax share their struggles to find housing at NDP event

In a statement, a spokesperson with Service Nova Scotia, the department which oversees the Residential Tenancies Act, says it’s unfortunate landlords are doing this as it’s not the purpose of the fixed-term leases, which are designed for tenants who are staying short-term.

“Unfortunately, some landlords are using them so they can raise the rent above the two per cent rent cap,” the statement says. “We appreciate the rent cap has been a challenge for some landlords but using fixed-term leases to circumvent the rent cap is not what they are for.”

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia residents continue to call on province to extend rent cap'
Nova Scotia residents continue to call on province to extend rent cap

In terms of solutions, the executive director of the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia says the only real way to fix the problem is more housing.

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“We will never regulate our way out of the housing crisis,” says Michael Kabalen in a statement. “The only real solution to the housing crisis is more housing, as quickly as possible, and in particular meaningful investments in forever affordable housing by governments, either through grants and loans to not-for-profit developers or by building it themselves as a public good.”

The students we spoke with, including second-year Dalhousie Student Adam Reay, wished they could stay in their apartments as it’s a struggle to find affordable places to live in the city.

Dalhousie student Adam Reay is one of many whose fixed-term lease is not being renewed at The Commodore. Skye Bryden-Blom/Global News

“I mean it doesn’t feel good obviously,” Reay says of his experience with The Commodore. “It’s very hard to find a place these days with rents hiking up everywhere. I don’t blame them for doing it because every place is doing it.”

He says students feel powerless when it comes to finding a solution.

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“There’s not a lot we can do here,” Reay says. “We just have to strike gold and find a good spot for us.”

He’s among the lucky few to have found a new place nearby, thanks to help from his mom who had a connection with a renter.

As for the fate of the other Commodore renters, University Apartments, which manages the property, did not return a request for comment by story deadline.

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