Nova Scotia

Rent control could do more harm than good, says N.S. property owners group

In the latest instalment of CBC Information Morning's series on affordable housing, we hear from Kevin Russell, executive director of the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia.

Calls for rent control growing louder as tenants battle low vacancy and rising costs

CBC Radio's Information Morning is exploring the current state of affordable housing in Nova Scotia, and what can be done to address some of the problems. (Photo Illustration/CBC News)

The head of a group representing Nova Scotia building owners says steep rental increases aren't the problem, but a symptom, of a decades-long issue that governments have failed to address. 

Kevin Russell, executive director of the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia, said property owners are facing rising costs, too, and in many cases, have no choice but to pass those costs onto tenants.

"Rising rents is a direct correlation between operating costs — rising operating costs. There's a number of examples where costs are spiking," he told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Tuesday.

He said insurance premiums have risen an average of 40 per cent, and upward of 80 per cent in older buildings. Meanwhile, he said more people are moving to Nova Scotia, especially Halifax, but there's not enough units to go around.

"There's a small percentage of landlords taking advantage of the situation. No question. We recognize that, but it's not reflective of the entire market," he said.

Many renters and advocates say Nova Scotia — Halifax, in particular — is facing a housing crisis with record low vacancy rates and rising costs.

Steep rent increases, along with so-called renovictions, are forcing more Nova Scotians to seek help from shelters that are already at capacity. 

CBC Radio's Information Morning is taking a deep dive into these issues — and what can be done about them — in its new series, Unaffordable or Unfit: Nova Scotia's Housing Challenge.

Kevin Russell, executive director of the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia, says rent control can cause developers to leave the rental housing market. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

There have been growing calls for the province to bring in rent control. In fact, two of the three candidates vying to be the next premier of Nova Scotia are in favour of some form of rent control.

But Russell doesn't believe rent control will solve the problem. 

"Academic research studies show rent control exasperates housing supply shortages due to lack of new rental buildings and units coming onto the market," he said. "It prohibits investment in purpose-built rental buildings. It also results in an exodus of rental housing owners from the market.

"We must be careful not just to focus on one solution. As the only solution may end up being more harmful."

Russell said the current housing crisis has been 25 years in the making, and it's going to take a co-ordinated approach by all three levels of government to solve it.

Listen to the full interview with Kevin Russell here:

Our series Unaffordable or unfit: Nova Scotia's housing challenge continues with a perspective from the Investors Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia. The group's executive director says the province is dragging its heels on finding solutions to the problem. 8:10

With files from CBC's Information Morning

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