N.B. housing strategy looks at all options, but no rent cap possible until fall: minister

Click to play video: 'No rent cap until at least fall says N.B. minister responsible for housing'
No rent cap until at least fall says N.B. minister responsible for housing
WATCH: The minister responsible for housing in New Brunswick says there will be no rent cap until at least the fall. MLA Jill Green says the housing strategy won’t be ready before the end of the session, pushing any legislation until October. Nathalie Sturgeon has the details on how stakeholders and advocates are responding – May 18, 2023

Tenant advocacy groups are disappointed after the minister responsible for housing in New Brunswick said if a rent cap was put in place, it wouldn’t be until October at the earliest.

In an interview with reporters, Minister Jill Green said the housing strategy being developed won’t be ready until the end of June, which is after the current session of the legislative assembly ends.

“We cannot introduce anything until the fall,” she said.  “We’re thinking about every piece of legislation that we currently have in place. The programs we have in place even the speed with which we roll those programs out. How we can change those and make them better.”

But a delay in the rent control is no surprise to Matthew Hayes with the New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants Rights.

“It’s really disappointing to see they are doing it again,” he said in an interview. “We have been pushing them to show some urgency on this file for the last three years and they have done everything they can possibly do to defer, defer, defer.”

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He said October is too late for tenants who are seeing double-digit rent increases, adding the province is losing 33 units — considered affordable — every week.

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“We’re losing almost five affordable units every single day,” he said. “Can we afford to do this?”

Rent control is the right thing to do, Hayes explained.

Another tenant advocacy group, Acron NB, said the province does not need to wait until the housing strategy is ready to implement a rent cap.

“They can be doing that now so there really isn’t any excuse. They can bring that in now while they are sitting, they just don’t want to,” Nicola Taylor, with Acron NB, said.

The government has moved to put other measures in place, including not allowing a rent increase in the first 12 months of tenancy, and limiting rent increases to once every 12 months.

The Tenancy Tribunal also has the authority, if the rent increase is high plus deemed reasonable and necessary, can be spread out over three years.

Any rent increases that come before the tribunal are subject to the these factors for approval or denial:

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  • If the market value in the area remains well above the proposed increased rent amount
  • If the unit in question has not had a rent increase for several years
  • If there have been major renovations to the unit
  • If one unit is well below the rent amounts paid for similar units in the same building

Taylor said she, too, is disappointed in the delay.

She worries the signal that a rent cap could happen six months from now will trigger landlords to implement them before October.

“Tenants need action,” Taylor said. “Maybe they’ll panic and if a rent cap is in place, now is the time to put those rent increases out.”

Willy Scholten, with the New Brunswick Apartment Owners Association, said in an email statement there are already protections in place, including more recent changes, adding many of the reviewed rent increases have been upheld as “fair and reasonable.”

“The data would say that less than ½ of 1 per cent (189/38,252) of the increases given needed a review,” he wrote in the email. “So, an overall rent cap would punish the whole market when 99.5% of the market is being fair already.”

He also said it could serve to suppress housing supply.

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All three of New Brunswick urban centres, though, have reported record development in recent years including a period when a temporary rent cap was in place.

Landlords also had a reduction in the non-owner-occupied property tax in 2022.

In the end though, Taylor said the groups worries the continued lack of urgency will only serve to worsen the crisis.

“But waiting until October, until we know what is in or what they can do or what they can implement in law, is just not good enough,” she said.

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