New Brunswick

$400 rent increase leaves Fredericton senior scrambling to find affordable apartment

Bernadette McGregor is worried about her future after an unexpected 50 per cent rent increase. The Lincoln resident said a note on her door on Nov. 23 informed her rent will be going up $400 dollars from the $800 a month she currently pays.

'I was in shock,' says Bernadette McGregor, who sees few housing options

Fredericton's vacancy rate is in the single digits, making affordable housing difficult to find. (CBC)

Bernadette McGregor is worried about her future after an unexpected 50 per cent rent increase.

The Fredericton-area senior says she can't afford the steep jump in cost for the apartment she's lived in almost eight years.

The Lincoln resident said a note on her door on Nov. 23 informed then rent will be going up $400 dollars from the $800 a month she currently pays. Utilities are not included.

"I just couldn't get over it, I was in shock," she said. "All these things started going through my head. Where am I going to live, what am I going to do?"

The note said it was necessary to keep up with rising operating costs, McGregor said.

Renovations at some New Brunswick apartment buildings have resulted in steep rent increases, leaving some tenants unable to stay. The province's Residential Tenancies Act does not restrict rent increases.

Tenants are required to receive three months notice before an increase.

No pandemic protections

There are also no protections against evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the government has permitted new ownership to force out tenants in entire buildings.

Premier Blaine Higgs has been asked if measures to prevent evictions in orange-level regions were in place.

"No, not at all," he said. "Not at this time."

McGregor's 10-unit apartment building was sold about a month ago and is now being managed by Canada Homes for Rent, a Saint John property management company. 

Bernadette McGregor says a $400 rent hike is forcing her to move from her home after eight years and she wants to see more protections for tenants. (Submitted by Bernadette McGregor)

She wrote to the new company to express her concerns — but said they didn't respond..

"As I figured, they don't really care, and they don't want to hear from us," McGregor told Information Morning Fredericton.

Jason Fillmore, regional director of Canada Homes for Rent, declined an interview with CBC News.

FIllmore said in a statement that he's sympathetic, but the increase to $1,200 a month is typical of the market in that area of Lincoln.

'There has to be something in place'

Rents are continuing to climb high in Saint John as developers renovate properties, driving some tenants searching for a new place to live.

Greg Mazerolle said rent in this current building, owned by Historica Developments, increased by 25 to 30 per cent.

"The housing for low- to moderate-income is starting to dissipate in this city," he told Information Morning Saint John.

Rent has increased from $1,700 to $2,000 per month and utilities are no longer included.

Parrtown Place on King Street in Saint John is one of Historica's redevelopments. (Julia Wright/CBC)

Historica, one of the city's largest real estate companies, purchased 20 more buildings from Hazen Property Management last month.

The company now owns about 400 units spread across 40 buildings.

Mazerolle is planning to leave his apartment as a personal decision to save on housing costs.

"It's exciting to see the city grow," he said. "However, there has to be something in place at a provincial level to kind of control what's already here for the people that live her. It's great that people want to come, but there's already people here."

Historica President Keith Brideau sent a statement to CBC News in response to a request for an interview.

Brideau said in most cases rents are only increased after a tenant moves out and if the company invests in extensive renovations.

Keith Brideau is the president of Historica Developments, which owns about 400 units in Saint John. (CBC)

"With respect to rising rents, most people don't realize the costs involved in owning a property," he said.

"For example, the majority of properties we've bought over the years were purchased from people who owned them for a long time — sometimes over 100 years — meaning they had no mortgage to pay."

Brideau said increasing operating costs for insurance, heating, electricity, property taxes and other expenses have also contributed. He said increased housing supply in the city will improve affordability.

Struggling to find housing

Tenants unable to pay rent were protected against evictions at the start of the pandemic in March. But the Higgs government lifted those measures on June 1.

Now McGregor is left scrambling to find a new apartment within her budget in Fredericton's tight housing market.

"It's very stressful, very upsetting," she said.

"I hope they get rent control going very soon."

This apartment building in Lincoln was purchased by Saint John investors in November for $1.375 million. Tenant Bernadette McGregor said notice soon followed to her and other tenants of a 50 percent rent increase coming in March (Submitted by Bernadette McGregor)

Despite an increase in residential development in 2019, the capital city's vacancy rate remains below two per cent

New Brunswick's Residential Tenancies Tribunal, formerly known as the Rentalsman's office, said no one was available for an interview.

The office told CBC News to ask McGregor to contact them.

Green Party Leader David Coon said he is hearing similar stories in Fredericton and the issue of affordable housing needs to be addressed.

"There's a real gold rush going on when it comes to snapping up rental properties, and the victims of this are the current residents who are being forced out," he said.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton, Information Morning Saint John

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