P.E.I.'s housing minister put forward a bill to limit the allowable increase on housing rentals to zero per cent for next year.
Matthew MacKay tabled the bill in the legislature Tuesday, where it received unanimous consent from MLAs to allow the bill to move to second reading debate on the same day it was tabled.
This comes after the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission notified Islanders it would set the allowable rent increase for next year at the highest rate in the regulator's history — 10.8 per cent for units heated with oil, 5.2 per cent for unheated units or those heated with sources other than furnace oil.
The rent hike was announced shortly before post-tropical storm Fiona hit P.E.I. in September.
MacKay said he's heard from a number of tenants, a tenant group, as well as landlord organizations since the announcement, and it's clear that now isn't the time to increase costs for renters.
"I know the tenants can't afford any more right now," MacKay said during debate on the bill. "I had hundreds of messages from tenants and they were all very polite messages, just saying we just can't afford this. We understand the landlords have significant costs but we just can't afford to take it anymore. We don't have the money."
Exploring support for landlords
The recent IRAC increase is the province's highest allowable annual rent hike on record. For the past two years, the maximum allowable increase for all rental units was one per cent.
Shortly after the IRAC limits were announced, the minister vowed to intervene.
The Green Party had said its MLAs were prepared to table legislation to limit the maximum increase to one per cent for units heated with oil and zero per cent for other units, if government didn't act on its own.
During debate in the legislature, MacKay said he understands landlords are facing significant cost increases to property taxes, insurance, interest rates and fuel.
"What I said to the landlords is the only way we're going to get out of this, we're going to all have to work together," MacKay said.
"I want to work with the landlords now to listen to their concerns because I know this is not their fault and we need to support the landlords as well without increasing the tenants' rental rate."
Debate on the bill ran out of time Tuesday before the bill came for a vote, but government can bring the bill back to the floor Wednesday.
MacKay said his department plans to continue conversations with landlords to find ways to help offset those rising costs.
He also said there will be investments announced in the capital budget to develop more government-owned housing units as well as funding for other housing developments.
The new limits would apply even if landlords have already issued notices for increases to take effect Jan. 1. Those notices would already have gone out, because landlords are required to provide 90 days' notice.