About a dozen people rallied in front of an apartment complex in Dartmouth on Saturday. They called on the Halifax Regional Municipality to develop a licensing policy for rental property owners to ensure the safety and health of tenants.
"It's not a God-given right to provide housing just because you own it," said Hannah Wood, the chair of ACORN, which advocates for people of low or moderate income. "It should be something that you are monitored to do because unfortunately a good-faith system just doesn't work.
"We have tenants in ACORN who are dealing with rats, cockroaches, mice, bedbugs — every kind of infestation you can imagine. Not to mention heating systems that don't work, and air conditioning systems that don't work."
Wood said sometimes tenants refuse to report their landlords to the city out of fear of retaliation.
She said ACORN wants HRM to impose a fee on landlords of $1 per unit to license their buildings. That would put them on a city registry for safety inspections every year.
Wood said buildings in poor condition often end up demolished, leading to less affordable housing in HRM.
Discussions around licensing landlords have been happening in Halifax since 2016.
While some councillors have supported the idea, one said licensing all apartments in the region would be difficult to regulate and the responsibility should fall to insurers.
Coun. Waye Mason has pushed for licensing to keep a minimum safety standard in the city.
Windsor, Ont., began a two-year pilot project earlier this year where rental units would need to be licensed in some parts of the city. Toronto and London, Ont., already have the measure in place.
Conditions in other cities improved after licensing
Scott Leon, a housing researcher from the Wellesley Institute, said conditions of rental buildings in Toronto seemed to improve after landlord licensing was implemented a couple of years ago.
"In that way, it could be looked at as a success," said Leon.
He said landlords pay about $11 per unit in Toronto. With ACORN asking HRM to implement a $1 fee per unit, he says it's really not much.
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