Nova Scotia's new rent cap, 'renoviction' ban could change under next premier

·3 min read

All three of the men vying to be the next premier of Nova Scotia say they'll stick with parts of the affordable housing plan laid out by the government last week — but depending on who wins the leadership vote, the rent cap and "renoviction" ban could change.

Housing Minister Chuck Porter announced the temporary two per cent cap last Wednesday, along with a ban on eviction orders for renovations. Both of those measures are tied to the COVID-19 state of emergency order, and could be wiped away at the end of the pandemic — or sooner, depending on what happens on Feb. 6.

That's the day the Nova Scotia Liberal Party chooses its next leader and the next premier of the province.

"It's too hard to predict exactly what situation we're going to be in in February," said Randy Delorey.

The recent health minister, now leadership contender, said he would wait to see how the pandemic progresses before deciding what to do with the new housing measures.

"We need to continue to be nimble and responsive to the needs of Nova Scotians to make sure that they are kept safe in this particular time," he said in an interview.

Although equivocal on the rent cap and renoviction ban, Delorey said he was in favour of the new affordable housing commission — a group of stakeholders who will advise the province on long-term solutions to the housing crunch.

"I think that's the most important thing, I think the commission is a critical step," he said.

Higher rent cap under Rankin, Kousoulis

Porter's housing announcement came two weeks after Delorey's two competitors for the leadership pitched their own plans for addressing the province's affordable housing shortage.

Some of the central tenets of Iain Rankin's proposal were similar to what's now in effect. Rankin said he would apply a rent cap and eviction ban for the duration of the pandemic. But he proposed a higher ceiling for rent increases — between four and 10 per cent, depending on the age of the building. He told CBC News this week he still thinks those are the right numbers.

"What I thought was unreasonable was rent increases that were going beyond the 10 per cent," he said.

Rankin also proposed striking a committee of stakeholders to advise the province on affordable housing, in the same vein as Porter's housing commission. Rankin said the new commission is missing something: people with lived experience.

"But I'm not going to be critical of that," Rankin said, "because I wanted action, I've been asking for action … and I'm happy to see the government addressing [this issue]."

The rent cap would likely go up to four per cent under a Labi Kousoulis government, too. He said he agrees with at least one of the concerns raised by landlords about the province's two per cent cap: it could lead to deferred maintenance on rental units.

He said he's committed to the general direction of the new government policies, but if he's the next premier, they would be "overlayed" by his own housing plan.

Kousoulis's plan is to keep the rent cap in place for four years, which he said is the amount of time needed to address the underlying issue. According to him, that's a lack of supply, and "red tape" barriers to new development.

As for the ban on renovictions, Kousoulis said that kind of "heavy, heavy measure from government" is something that would have to be monitored closely.