Harbour City Homes tenants say building sale will push them out

People living in several properties owned by a non-profit housing society received notices this week that the society's board of directors has decided to sell properties on Brunswick Street.

Halifax residents say they're expecting future owners to renovate the buildings and increase rent

Deb Key and Jennifer Conrad received notices this week that their landlord, Harbour City Homes, intends to sell the properties they've lived in for years. (CBC)

A group of tenants in north-end Halifax, who live in buildings owned by a non-profit housing society, are worried they will be forced from their homes now that the buildings are for sale.

People living in several properties owned by Harbour City Homes received notices Wednesday that the society's board of directors decided to sell several buildings on Brunswick Street. They're located between Saint Patrick's Church and Cornwallis Street.

"New owners come in here, they purchase the places. They redo them or whatever. We can't afford to pay what they're asking," said Deb Keys, whose has lived in the area her entire life.

Keys said a neighbouring building was recently renovated and is being rented out for double what she pays.

"How do we afford that? We just don't. They're taking away a part of this community. It's really, really sad," she said.

Key says she doesn't understand how a not-for-profit organization can sell buildings for profit. 

"It's so cold and it's so callous," she said.

The housing society's website says the organization owns 20 properties in the north end. One property — a multi-unit apartment building on Brunswick Street — is listed for sale for $1.11 million.

Harbour City Homes declined to comment, saying only that it had to sell its properties to continue to afford running other buildings.  

"Gentrification is happening here and we saw that with the selling of St. Pat's," says Jennifer Conrad, another tenant.

Gerald Bowden, 76, says he's looked after his and his neighbour's homes on Brunswick Street for 36 years. (CBC)

"We need more affordable housing in Halifax. We don't need huge rents, we don't need more condos in this community. We need affordable housing. We need to house people. Some of us can't afford to pay $1,000 rent, a lot of us can't."

The city says they have no say over the properties and there are no rules or bylaws that allow the municipality to set landlords' rents.

The properties are governed by the province's Residential Tenancies Act, which stipulates terms of existing leases must continue under new ownership and tenants cannot be arbitrarily evicted, even if ownership changes. New owners must also give notice for any rent increases.

But some tenants say any rent increase is equivalent to an eviction.

"Where am I going to go if they kick us out of here? They haven't given us no options. Just that we're selling and you've got to go," said Gerald Bowden, who has lived in his home for 36 years.

The 76-year-old said he's maintained his and his neighbour's properties like they were his own.

"We're all family. If one person has a problem the other ones help them out of that problem," he said.

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