Nova Scotia

N.S. NDP say rent control needed to make rental housing more affordable

Nova Scotia's New Democrats say rent control and regulating short-term rental site Airbnb are desperately needed in the province. One north-end Halifax renter displaced by Hurricane Dorian says he's looking at more than a 50 per cent hike in rent to find a suitable alternative.

NDP say provincial Liberals have failed to build affordable housing and protect renters

Halifax Needham NDP MLA Lisa Roberts was joined by resident Sobaz Benjamin and social worker Eric Johnson at a news conference Wednesday where they talked about a lack of affordable housing. (Sherri Borden Colley/CBC)

Sobaz Benjamin and family were forced to move out of their three-bedroom rental home in north-end Halifax after Hurricane Dorian struck last month and caused their roof to collapse.

The family of four lived in the home for eight years and is temporarily staying with relatives.

Finding another place to live at a price they can afford is difficult, Benjamin told reporters Wednesday at a Halifax news conference held by the provincial NDP.

"It's hard for us because as privileged as I think I am … I have a few university degrees, I have a number of years work experience in my in my field, it has been very hard despite that challenge," Benjamin said.

"My wife is gainfully employed also and finding a place on the peninsula ... seems almost impossible to find. But we're still seeking and trying."

Before their move, the couple was paying $1,250 a month for rent. Benjamin said the price for something comparable has been $2,000 and up.

Eric Johnson has been a housing support and community social worker for roughly the past eight years. He helps clients find affordable places to live.

"I've never seen it this difficult before," he said.

Sobaz Benjamin's family was displaced from their north-end Halifax home last month after Hurricane Dorian. The family was paying $1,250 a month to rent a three-bedroom home, but Benjamin says they cannot find another similar rental for under $2,000 a month. (Sherri Borden Colley/CBC)

Nova Scotia's New Democrats have introduced legislation to implement rent control and regulate short-term rental provider Airbnb.

"In Nova Scotia, 20 per cent of households now spend more than 50 per cent of their income on rent and utilities, an absolutely unsustainable amount," Halifax Needham MLA Lisa Roberts said. "There are more than 23,000 families in this position."

In a news release, the NDP said the provincial Liberals have failed to build affordable housing and protect renters. It said that homes being converted into short-term rentals for visitors are contributing to low vacancy rates in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Eric Johnson is a housing support and community social worker. He helps clients find affordable places to live. (Sherri Borden Colley/CBC)

Business Minister Geoff MacLellan said a new Airbnb registry will be in place April 1. Before that happens, he said there will be consultations with stakeholders and the general public.

He said the registry will give government data about how the sharing economy is impacting the housing market in metro Halifax and across the province.

"This was taking place for a numbers of years now and without this data, we have no idea what the true impact is," he said.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sherri Borden Colley has been a reporter for more than 20 years. Many of the stories she writes are about social justice, race and culture, human rights and the courts. To get in touch with Sherri email sherri.borden.colley@cbc.ca

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