Premier confirms rent cap is still on the table for N.B.
The chair of a tenants rights group in New Brunswick says she has an easy fix for the flawed housing amendments that were supposed to protect against huge rent increases — scrap the whole thing and bring back rental control.
Things were so easy and clear under last year's rent cap of 3.8 per cent, said Nichola Taylor, chair of New Brunswick ACORN.
"Everybody knows where they're standing on that — the tenant knows, the landlord knows and their version of the [Residential Tenancies Tribunal] knows.
"It's that simple. That's all they have to do. They don't have to make it really complex with all this complicated language and say you need to know what the CPI [consumer price index] is and then double that. It's too much."
Cap might be needed, Higgs says
On Friday, Higgs confirmed to reporters that rent caps are still "on the table."
A cap "may not be something that goes forever," Higgs said, "but it may be something needed in the short term."
He said, "I'm not here to endorse a rent cap of any kind. I'm just saying that I want the minister to have a very open view on what she's hearing and what solutions are best appropriate for the province."
Taylor said the province's attempt to replace the one-year rent cap with a series of amendments hasn't worked.
"It's just a big mess."
She said the complicated and vague wording left those making the decisions with a different understanding than what the minister "intended."
Add to that a series of unintended loopholes, and "it just became a circus almost. And it doesn't need to be that complicated," said Taylor.
"If you want affordable housing, it starts with rent control," she said. "Without rent control, you will never have affordable housing."
She pointed out that Nova Scotia recently extended its cap on rent hikes to the end of 2025. Rent increases there cannot exceed five per cent.
Tenants group calls for equal protection
Members of the New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants Rights also think rent control is key to fixing the current housing crisis.
"As we have been saying since 2020, we want to see rent control tied to units and indexed to CPI to allow New Brunswick renters to plan financially and to stop the hemorrhaging of affordable units," said Tobin LeBlanc Haley, a member of the coalition.
And, after problems surfaced publicly this week that fixed-term leases were not eligible to have large increases phased in over two or three years, Haley said it's important that protections are applied equally to all renters.
"There are so many problems with the act," said Haley. "I wouldn't say simply implementing a rent cap would deal with all these issues, but rent control would be a start."
On Friday, Higgs also said all cases being forwarded to a "special appeal panel" are being examined and if any loopholes are discovered, Housing Minister Jill Green will make them "part of the presentation that the minister will put out in the next month."
Higgs said he "certainly didn't put any borders around" what she might suggest for changes.