The Nova Scotia government introduced more legislation on Thursday to further its housing agenda, including the two-year extension of the cap on rent increases.
Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services Minister Colton Leblanc said the rent cap bill, which holds annual increases for tenants staying in the same place to two per cent, will mean security for renters while the government works to get more housing stock in place.
"Most landlords have been respectful and understanding to their tenants during these very difficult times and I would like to thank them for that," Leblanc said during a bill briefing.
"There are, however, a few that say they will raise their rents by as much as 100 per cent and have made the continuation of this interim measure necessary."
The cap was originally brought in by the former government through a ministerial order last November and was scheduled to run out by Feb. 1, 2022. With the legislation Leblanc introduced, the cap will remain in place until Dec. 31, 2023.
While some people have expressed concerns that landlords could move tenants to fixed-term leases as a workaround, Leblanc clarified that isn't allowed. A tenant must consent to being moved from a yearly or month-to-month lease to a fixed term. The rent cap also applies to people who are on fixed-term leases, as long as they remain in their unit.
Moving along developments that are ready
Along with that bill, Municipal Affairs Minister John Lohr introduced legislation to create an executive panel on housing in the Halifax Regional Municipality. The new body will have a chair appointed by Lohr and two representatives each put forward by the province and municipality.
Lohr said he hopes to have the body in place by December, with recommendations to follow soon after.
At the recommendation of the panel or request of the municipality, the bill gives the minister the power to create "special planning areas." Lohr said that section of the act and the bill itself is not about the province being heavy-handed.
"It's about identifying places where we can immediately increase housing supply or work together to identify what the issues are holding up approvals or holding up larger-scale development areas and working to see that those get addressed," he said.
Lohr said environmental reviews required for proposed developments would not be waived and he has no intention of overturning plans the municipality already has in place.
The third bill will establish a regional transportation agency focusing on the Halifax Regional Municipality.
Public Works Minister Kim Masland said the intention is to formalize a previously informal working relationship between the province and HRM. The agency's mandate is to create a five-year master transportation plan to help the municipality account for anticipated population growth in future years.
Planning for the future
Some municipal representatives have expressed concern the province's plan amounts to redundancies and overlooks the city's integrated mobility plan and rapid transit strategy.
Masland told reporters there's nothing wrong with the work the city has already done.
"We need to make sure that we're doing the proper funding, so there's no mistakes. When we make mistakes, it costs money," said Masland.
"This will bring us together in one room to make sure that we're doing the right things going forward — not that I'm saying that right things haven't been done, but again, any time there's collaboration, there's future planning with all the stakeholders, it's success."
The minister said the work would include planners, engineers, a variety of stakeholders and would focus on all modes of transportation, including active transit. She said it's too early to say if the work will lead to the province becoming more actively involved in funding public transit.
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