Right on cue, the editorial board of the Telegraph-Journal (Sept. 19) took issue with tenants rallying for permanent rent control in the cities of Saint John, Moncton and Fredericton on Saturday, Sept. 17.
The Telegraph-Journal sees the housing crisis as a problem with supply. Tenants organizing with ACORN disagree.
We know that rent control is a consumer protection designed to shield renters from landlords seeking windfalls from rent hikes which serve no public benefit.
When we began advocating for the rent cap, we were seeing massive rent increases in affordable units, sometimes in the range of 20-40 per cent. These far outpaced inflation or any cost increases in materials or labour. It’s price gouging, plain and simple, and tenants should not have to bear that cost.
Rent increases are capped at two per cent in BC, zero per cent for some units in Manitoba, 2.5 per cent in Ontario, 1-3 per cent in Quebec, 5-10 per cent (sadly) in Prince Edward Island, and 3.3 per cent in the Yukon. Provincial governments across the country have taken these measures to protect tenants as vulnerable consumers.
If, as the Telegraph-Journal editorial board indicates, the solution to the housing crisis is an increase in housing supply, then surely they would take issue with recent property tax cuts and the $14 million in tax rebates, both of which went to landlords of existing units.
This is not an incentive to build more units, but instead a handout to corporate landlords. If the purpose of these cuts was to increase affordable supply, the cuts could have been targeted at developers who built affordable units. We have not seen any of these tax breaks reduce costs for tenants.
If the Government of New Brunswick seeks to protect property owners from a volatile market, then why not protect tenants as well? How many New Brunswickers need to face evictions while we wait for the market to “correct”? How many need to make tough choices between the rising cost of housing, food, and fuel, while the affordable supply is reduced through renoviction or conversion of properties to short term rentals?
Focusing on supply as the sole solution is always going to be insufficient: constructing housing does not combat price increases that are the result of collusion, opportunism, or speculation. For these we need consumer protections, which is what ACORN advocates.
We demand an end to renovictions and all evictions whose only purpose is to increase rents without limit. This can be done through enhanced protections in the Residential Tenancy Act and by linking rent caps to properties instead of tenancy. If rent increase caps are linked to properties, a lot of the incentive to evict existing tenants for rent increases goes away.
We demand permanent rent control: ACORN has raised the issue of the housing crisis for two years and will not stand by as tenants bear the cost of outsized rent increases and inflation.
We demand that the Residential Tenancy Act be modernized to enhance health and safety, increase tenant protection, and to extend these protections to cover residents of NB Housing.
Sarah Lunney and Angus Fletcher are organizers with ACORN NB, a tenant and anti-poverty advocacy group with chapters in Moncton, Fredericton, Saint John and across Canada.