New Brunswick

Cabinet minister says rent control will worsen housing market in N.B.

Progressive Conservative MLA Mary Wilson says she doesn’t believe rent hikes are a massive issue in New Brunswick and thinks rent control will keep developers from building.

The province's Residential Tenancies Act doesn't restrict rent increases, requires three months notice

Mary Wilson, Progressive Conservative MLA for Oromocto-Lincoln-Fredericton and minister of Service New Brunswick, says rent control won't fix housing issue in New Brunswick. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

The province's Service New Brunswick Minister Mary Wilson says she doesn't believe rent hikes are a massive issue in New Brunswick and that rent control would only worsen the housing market. 

"We've noted in the past that rent controls do not fix the problem, what we have here in New Brunswick right now is a low inventory problem," the MLA for Oromocto-Lincoln-Fredericton told The Political Panel on Thursday. 

Last week, Fredericton resident Bernadette McGregor told CBC News her rent was suddenly set to increase by 50 per cent, which she can't afford and doesn't have government help to protect her. 

Wilson referred to McGregor's situation and others encountering rental hikes as "isolated cases." 

"This misinformation and false statements have to stop, because it's causing unnecessary stress and panic," she said 

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)
  

Liberal MLA for Shediac Bay-Dieppe Robert Gauvin said the government's role needs to be protecting tenants. 

"Our role is to make sure people don't sleep outside," said Gauvin.

"We are not a business, we have a social responsibility… I'm not interested in playing politics."  

Gauvin said the province needs to find a solution, any solution, if it means keeping people safe in their homes.

"This is unacceptable, this is not Canada, this is not New Brunswick, we help people when people are in need," he said. 

"We need to do something… this is a real problem."

When asked what measures are in place to protect tenants from rent hikes, Wilson said the issue is with the market.

Robert Gauvin, Liberal Party MLA for Shediac Bay-Dieppe, says New Brunswick needs a rent freeze. (Ed Hunter/CBC)
 

"Right now it's driven by the market, that's how it works," she said.

"If they need intervention, for us to help in different areas, we'll do our best."  

Temporary measures needed

David Coon, MLA for Fredericton South and Leader of the Green Party, agreed with Gauvin, saying the government's role is to ensure people can stay in their homes and avoid massive rent increases they can't afford, especially during a pandemic.   

He pointed to Nova Scotia's temporary policy, that restricts rental property owners from increasing rent by any more than 2% until the COVID-19 crisis is over. 

Coon said the Green Party put a motion forward in the house to have a similar policy moved in New Brunswick, which would also prevent the termination of leases for renovations. 

"The last thing you need to do during the pandemic is to be forced to look for a new home in a tight market, when you've done everything you can to make the place you live as secure and safe as possible," he said. 

Coon said the Residential Tenancies Act is not strong enough and needs to be "overhauled."

LISTEN | Political panelists talk about rent control for New Brunswick.

The political panel weighs in on rent control and the debate going on in the province about rising rents. Joining the discussion, Mary Wilson, Minister responsible for Service New Brunswick, Robert Gauvin for the Liberals, David Coon for the Green party, and Kris Austin with the People's Alliance. 39:33

He said he presented a bill a year and a half ago which looked to do just that, but it didn't move forward. Coon hopes a new less-restrictive bill that would prevent rental property owners from hiking rents an unreasonable amount, will be adopted.

Kris Austin, the MLA for Fredericton-Grand Lake and the Leader of the People's Alliance, said he would only support a rent cap if it were done on a temporary basis. 

"At the end of the day, that is not going to fix the housing crisis, as a matter of fact, on a long-term basis it will probably exacerbate it," he said.

Rental control means developers stop building

Wilson said rent controls would lower housing availability and quality. 

Green Party Leader David Coon says government's role is to empower its citizens. (Graham Thompson/CBC)
 

Coon said he's heard from developers who are terrified of rent control, but he thinks it's needed.

"This is what happens all the time, you've got a few bad actors in the system who are jacking up rents, you need regulation to govern that," he said.

Double taxation needs to go

Austin said the province needs to put an end to double taxation for property owners and implement a rent freeze for three years. 

"It's all about supply and demand," he said. 

"No developer is going to come to New Brunswick and say, 'I think I'll put up a multi-unit building,' and then pay double tax that eats into their profits." 

People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin says he's seen foreign workers with certification to be a nurse forced to take a job at Subway. (CBC News)

He said rent is high throughout the province because developers pass on the cost of double taxation to their tenants. 

Wilson says the double taxation for rental property owners will come off as soon as the province's budget is under control. 

"Our government, I'd like to point out, is the first one in the history of forever to even make a commitment to start eliminating the double tax," said Wilson. 

She said the plan to end the double tax, which comes with a $100-million-dollar price tag per year, was delayed because of COVID-19. 

With files from The Political Panel

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