Houston sees no state of affairs by which lease management would proceed after the state of emergency
Nova Scotia Prime Minister-designate said Monday he was still determined to lift the rental price brake introduced by the Liberal government after the province’s state of emergency was lifted, although it is unclear when it will.
At a COVID-19 briefing, Tim Houston reiterated his position from the provincial election campaign, saying a progressive Conservative government would end the two percent annual rent increase cap.
“I don’t see a scenario to extend it, that’s not what I focused on. I sincerely believe that the solution to the housing crisis lies in more housing stocks, ”Houston told reporters.
“For anyone who says that the rent control is a solution to the housing crisis in this province, that is not the case. It is insincere to say that.”
The rent brake was introduced at the end of last year
In the face of a housing crisis, the Liberals took action last November that included a rent cap until February 1, 2022 or whenever the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted.
Houston offers an update at a COVID-19 briefing in Nova Scotia on August 23, 2021. (David Laughlin / CBC)
Houston said the state of emergency will end sometime after Nova Scotia enters the fifth and final phase of its COVID-19 reopening plan, tentatively slated for September 15. He said he would work with Public Health on a schedule.
The NDP was the only major party that promised a continued rental price cap during the election.
The PC voting platform outlined a plan to sell or lease public land to builders, with the restriction that some of it must be affordable housing.
Rent control is not the solution: Houston
Houston, whose progressive conservatives won a majority government in last week’s elections, said the rental price control could deter a long-term solution to the crisis as it could deter people looking to build new units.
He said he got calls from people who lost their homes after landlords stopped renting because of rent control.
“In the meantime, we don’t want to do anything to prevent us from achieving the goal we need to achieve,” he said.
Stephen Smith from Dartmouth lives in a semi-detached house with his girlfriend and two daughters. Although he hasn’t been given a rent increase, he knows that could change soon – and get them out on the streets.
Even on two incomes, Smith said his family can make ends meet while paying $ 1,000 a month in rent.
He said there was “no way” he could afford an apartment, even if he made about $ 52,000 a year in the construction industry.
This file photo shows a construction crane near Citadel Hill in Halifax. A Dartmouth tenant and construction worker says Houston’s argument that the rent brake is damaging development is simply not true as the city’s construction boom is still ongoing. (Anjuli Patil / CBC)
“That’s ridiculous,” said Smith. “We’re living in the Toronto market with apartments right now, getting our Nova Scotian wages.”
Smith disagrees with Houston’s argument that the rent cap prevents developers from building stocks. He said there are more construction cranes in the city than perhaps ever before, with apartments and condos growing steadily, even when rents have been in place for almost a year.
“You know these units are being sold,” he said. “You will sell no matter what.”
Hotel room as an option
Houston said he heard many suggestions on how to help people who might be priced out of their homes before new housing stocks are added, including using hotel rooms for people with nowhere to go.
Street outreach navigators who work with the homeless have said almost no hotel rooms are available, but they should be opened as soon as tourists leave in the fall and winter. Meanwhile, lawyers and social workers have said that hotel rooms are not an answer for people with mental health problems and addiction problems.
Violence broke out in downtown Halifax last week after the community demolished emergency shelters and camps in parks and community lots. Police in riot gear and body armor used pepper spray at one point while protesters hurled objects at officers.
Houston said he spoke with Mayor Mike Savage about how the situation got to this point and further talks are planned.
Protesters jostle for a protest with police after the city removed tents and small shelters for the homeless in Halifax on Wednesday, August 18, 2021. (Andrew Vaughan / The Canadian Press)
The Prime Minister-designate also said the province is working to uncover the reasons why the number of homeless camps in Halifax has increased in recent years, such as the lack of affordable housing.
Houston and his cabinet are due to be sworn in on August 31st. Houston said Monday that he and one of his ministers will meet with the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission immediately.