To the Affordable Housing Commission,
Solidarity Kjipuktuk / Halifax submits the following:
In Halifax and the province, we are facing a housing crisis. The existence of this commission and the implementation of rent control (however provisional and temporary) are signals that the province has deigned to recognise this crisis. However, more action is needed to address this grim reality in any meaningful way.
COVID may have brought this crisis to the fore, but it was decades of inaction, neglect, and austerity that have brought us to this point. An entire generation have grown to adulthood since the province last seriously invested in public social housing, since there was last full rent control in this province, and has come of age in an era when affordable housing is completely absent. From Cape Breton to Yarmouth County, from Amherst to Halifax, housing costs continue to mount as an overheated housing market makes renting unaffordable, and home ownership even less than a distant hope for most.
Hundreds of people are unhoused or insecurely housed in Halifax. People are sleeping rough (outside and unsheltered). In rural Nova Scotia, figures are harder to come by, but almost certainly parallel those numbers. While developers, landlords, and investors continue to make obscene profits, Nova Scotians are going without safe, secure housing and even without shelter. It is increasingly clear that landlords are not just profiting from this crisis, as an examination of CMHC figures would suggest, but are a cause of it—as people are evicted from their homes by literal bulldozers, skyrocketing rents, and until recently, by aesthetic ‘renovations.’ This is an unacceptable state of affairs.
We call on the provincial government to immediately embark on a program of re-investment in affordable housing development, regulation of landlords, and implementation of rent control measures.
The waitlist for public housing stands at over 5000 people. Public housing stock has not meaningfully increased since the 1990s, and what remains has decayed after decades of neglect and disinvestment. People in social housing deserve safety and dignity, and the need for low-cost public housing greatly exceeds supply.
Landlords continue to rent out sub-standard housing, and frequently skirt the Residential Tenancies Board rulings. 1 in 10 rented dwellings need “critical repairs,” according to the 2016 census. The RTB continues to be ineffectual in protecting tenants’ interests, especially due to the vast disparity in tenants’ ability to access the legal resources necessary to ensure they receive justice through that process. To ensure tenants’ rights are respected, and their needs for safe, secure housing are met, landlords must face regulation with strict enforcement mechanisms to guarantee compliance.
The province clearly recognises the efficacy of rent control for regulating the housing market; however, the current measures are inadequate and only temporary. The rent control measures must be extended, and vacancy controls re-instated. Rent control measures have been instituted in many jurisdictions, both within and beyond Canada, and are a necessary tool to ensure housing affordability—one that cannot be withdrawn once the pandemic has passed.