Members of the Nova Scotia chapter of anti-poverty group ACORN gathered Thursday outside the Nova Scotia Legislature in downtown Halifax to demand permanent rent control measures be put in place by the newly elected Progressive Conservative government.
"We need to have permanent rent control," said Hannah Wood, co-chair of the Halifax peninsula chapter of ACORN. "The rent control cap that will end when the state of emergency is lifted is going to lead to mass evictions and will lead to an even bigger problem of houselessness than we have now."
A temporary cap that limits rent increases to two per cent was introduced last year in the face of a housing crisis gripping the province, with people struggling to afford an apartment or being evicted due to renovations. Tent cities have been popping up in the Halifax area.
The former Liberal government's cap was tied to the existence of the public health state of emergency and is scheduled to end when the order is lifted or on Feb. 1, 2022, whichever comes first.
Rents in the province have been increasing more quickly in recent years, according to federal data, while vacancy rates have dropped to their lowest levels in at least three decades. Tension between landlords and renters has risen over the last few years, according to Wood.
"It's extremely bad and I think it's even worse than most people realize," said Wood. "A lot of the people who will be getting increases when the cap eventually comes to an end, they will have nowhere to go."
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston, who was sworn in last month, has repeatedly said rent control is not something he plans to continue. Housing Minister John Lohr suggested earlier this month the government would consider extending rent control beyond the state of emergency.
About 70 protesters attended Thursday's demonstration. Wood said people are already struggling to find affordable housing and any increase in rent will see many of them unable to find a place to live.
"I don't know where Tim Houston thinks these people will go when they get these rent increases because they don't have anywhere to go, they will have to leave their units and they will be living on the streets."
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