FREDERICTON – The New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants Rights released a municipal housing platform on April 23, outlining 11 policy proposals on what municipalities can do to protect tenants rights and advance affordable housing.
“Municipalities have often claimed that because housing is a provincial responsibility in the constitution, there’s nothing municipalities can do about it. But this is a fundamental misunderstanding of municipal powers and cooperative federalism. This document is a list of concrete things that municipalities can do on housing, and we invite candidates running municipally across the province to campaign on these ideas,” said Aditya Rao, a lawyer and organizer of the NB Coalition for Tenants Rights.
The 16-page report, released in both official languages, addresses some of what municipalities can do for falling vacancy rates, rent increases, worsening homelessness, and long waits for public housing.
The ideas include stronger municipal bylaws to enforce better standards in rental units, new economic structures such as housing corporations and rent banks, and a licensing regime for corporate landlords.
“We looked at programs put in place across the country at the municipal level to prepare this report,” said Matthew Hayes, a Canada Research Chair and professor at Saint Thomas University and a member of the NB Coalition for Tenants Rights. “We have examples from Medicine Hat, Alberta to Victoria, BC, to Moncton. We have seen municipal leadership on housing in our province already – let’s build on that leadership in this municipal election,” he said.
The Coalition hopes that this report will lay to rest the idea that municipalities can do very little on housing. In fact, the opposite is true. Municipalities have great creative freedom to act on the issue. The problem is not jurisdiction, it is political will.
More than 5,200 New Brunswickers are on the waiting list for public housing.
Miramichi, Calgary, Ottawa, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal have implemented zoning legislation creatively designed to increase the proportion of affordable housing in those municipalities.
Rent banks have been established in Toronto and Burnaby to address rental and utility arrears through the provision of interest free loans and grants.
Read the platform here.
Angus Fletcher is an organizer with the New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants Rights.