Tenants and housing advocates opposed to Bill 25 gathered in front of the New Brunswick legislature on Saturday, November 26, demanding the Higgs government rescind its decision not to extend the temporary rent cap to next year.
“I believe housing is a human right, and with the increase in the cost of goods, inflation [and] skyrocketing rental costs, I believe that if we don’t implement the rental cap and control the increase in rents, we are eroding this human right,” Jason Marshall told the NB Media Co-op.
“People deserve a safe and affordable place to live,” Marshall said. “And I support that, and I’m here to show my support for those folks.”
Members of the anti-poverty group ACORN NB and others carried signs with slogans such as “Scrap Bill 25.”
Check out raw footage from the event:
“We are not going to be played in their political game of chess to make sure the landlords are kept happy,” said Nichola Taylor, chair of ACORN NB. “We have rights. We have dignity.”
“And we are going to try because safe, secure housing is a right [for] every single person.”
Tenants and housing advocates gathered in front of the New Brunswick legislature in Fredericton on Saturday, November 26, 2022 to demand the New Brunswick government repeal Bill 25 and extend the rent cap. Photo by Arun Budhathoki.
“Everybody deserves a warm place to live in Canada, and in particular, in New Brunswick,” said Steve Drost, president of CUPE NB, the union representing some 28,000 public sector workers across the province.
“This government has blood on its hands, and they are neglecting the very people who will elect people into this house,” he said. “We need to start electing people who are going to look after all citizens, and stop allowing the corporations to set public policy.”
What’s in Bill 25?
The amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act, Bill 25, include extending the application period for a rent review from 30 to 60 days, and granting powers to the Residential Tenancies Tribunal to phase in rent increases over a three-year period. The rent increase must be within market value for the condition and size of the unit as compared to similar units in the same building or neighbourhood.
Tenant rights group say the amendments do not address the housing affordability crisis, doing little to protect tenants. They note the process for contesting rent increases is complaint-driven, meaning a tenant must formally complain before the tribunal will consider using the phase-in mechanism.
Tenant groups demand change
The New Brunswick chapter of ACORN, a nationwide network of low to moderate-income people, is demanding that the province permanently cap rent increases at two per cent.
The group also wants landlords to apply through the Residential Tenancies Tribunal for rent increases, and says complaints shouldn’t be the mechanism for enforcement.
Under pressure from the association representing landlords, the province had previously refused rent control. As tenants faced evictions amid the COVID-19 crisis and inflation skyrocketed, the Higgs government instituted a temporary rent cap, which was opposed by the province’s biggest landlords.
On Saturday, Angus Fletcher, a member of ACORN NB and the New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants Rights, renewed calls for a rent cap and told the government to “stop making tenants do the work of regulators.”
Arun Budhathoki is a video-journalist with the NB Media Co-op. This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada, administered by the Canadian Association of Community Television Stations and Users (CACTUS).