New Brunswick tenants fear evictions and move a lot, according to a survey released days before National Housing Day, which is November 22.
The New Brunswick chapter of ACORN, a nation-wide network of low to moderate-income people, conducted the bilingual survey of 169 tenants in New Brunswick.
The survey report, “NB Renters at Risk: The Lack of Eviction Protection and Housing Insecurity” highlighted that “in most cases, other provinces require landlords to prove that the tenant is at fault (e.g. behind on rent, damaging the property) in order to evict. Evicting a tenant is much easier to do in New Brunswick.”
According to the survey, only 18 per cent of respondents have lived in their apartments for more than five years. The survey also reported 81.4 per cent of respondents having moved at least once in the last five years while 52 per cent had moved at least twice. Eighteen per cent reported moving more than four times in the last five years.
“Moving is a stressful task for anyone, but for lower income people it is even more stressful. They have higher rates of mobility issues, lack the money to hire movers, and have inflexible work hours,” according to the report.
ACORN argues that rapidly increasing rents are making housing unaffordable and tenants forced to move during a period of drastically low vacancies are finding nowhere to go.
The survey also found that housing conditions in New Brunswick are precarious with more than one out of three respondents reporting that they have experienced threats of evictions from their landlords or building managers.
ACORN is campaigning for safe, secure and affordable housing for all New Brunswickers through rent control, eviction protections and the overhaul of the Residential Tenancy Act.
Peter Jongeneelen, a Moncton-based tenant and member of ACORN New Brunswick, says changes to the New Brunswick’s rental legislation introduced on November 2 fall short of providing tenants with any meaningful protections.
“Rent increases will be limited to once per year but there’s still no limit on how much rent can be increased. The government needs to make some real substantive changes to protect the most vulnerable tenants,” says Jongeneelen.
ACORN is asking the public to send emails to their MLA, asking them to recognize tenant displacement and evictions as the leading cause of the housing crisis.
Results of the province’s 90-day Rental Review released in May concluded that, “New Brunswick is not currently in a housing crisis as the system is working for many, but it could become a crisis if we don’t pay attention.”
The review begins with a positive outlook of a province experiencing a growing economy and population, booming housing sectors with changing housing needs, then turns to the dilemma of housing as human rights vs business, which leads to “no easy answers.”
The review took inputs in both official languages from tenants, landlords, developers, local governments, development agencies, and community groups, and received survey submissions from 4,623 tenants, 851 landlords, and 65 developers.
It acknowledged the lack of rent protection in New Brunswick by confirming that there are no limits on the frequency of rent increases, while in most jurisdictions rent increases are limited to once per year.
New Brunswick tenants are facing the sharpest rent increases in Canada. According to data from Statistics Canada, from March 2020 to March 2021, rents in New Brunswick increased by 4.8 per cent. The Canadian rent increase average over that period was 0.5 per cent.
The government report warns that rent control “can have long reaching positive and negative repercussions on stakeholders and should be reviewed and considered carefully from a system lens.”
Jael Duarte, the Tenant Advocate with the New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants Rights, disagrees: “The only thing that controls rents is rent control. We need a rent control regime that is robust, and that is coupled with other basic protections for tenants missing in New Brunswick such as security of tenure”
Data Brainanta is a permaculturalist-in-training who has an interest in politics.