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“Renoviction” Debate NS Legislature

LORELEI NICOLL « »: Mr. Speaker, it’s been two weeks since Nova Scotians lost their protection against renovictions. The vacancy rate in this province hovers around 1 per cent. The new units and solutions promised by this government are months and years in the making, but people are in crisis today. My question is to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing: Knowing that there is not enough housing supply and that tenants of older units are especially vulnerable, why did this government end the renoviction ban?

HON. COLTON LEBLANC « »: The member is very well aware that last Fall we brought forward amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act. Our government was very proactive, knowing that the end of the renoviction ban was going to come. We recognize that substantial renovations are important to safe and secure households and residential premises. That’s why we put strict tenant protections in place and there is a substantial and rigid process to follow. Again, the rhetoric – the narrative – that’s going on in the public right now regarding renovictions taking place should not be taking place. Tenants have a process to follow, as do landlords.

LORELEI NICOLL « »: “The rhetoric in the public.” Okay.
We know that rent caps incentivize renovictions. How are Nova Scotians expected to find affordable housing when investors are chasing them out of every affordable unit they can find. This “compassionate” government has lifted the ban on renovictions while maintaining the rent caps. This is a dangerous combination that is seeing vulnerable Nova Scotians on the street and losing the place they called home for over 30 years. I’ll table that.

My question is for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing: This government is not offering any safety and stability to these Nova Scotians. Will you act now, with speed, on reinstating the renoviction ban? Housing is health care.

COLTON LEBLANC « »: Mr. Speaker, please allow me to take this opportunity to outline the process for all members, that all members voted in this Assembly last Fall. If tenants and landlords do not mutually agree to a renoviction process, then the landlord must apply to the Residential Tenancies Board, demonstrate the need for vacant possession, demonstrate that they need a building permit for the renovations. Again, Mr. Speaker, they are substantial renovations. It’s not simply changing a window or light fixture.

That’s why this government took action last Fall to bring tenant protections regarding compensation for tenants and penalties against landlords who do not follow this process. (Applause)

THE SPEAKER « »: The honourable member for Bedford South.

BRAEDON CLARK « »: Mr. Speaker, with the renoviction ban being lifted, seniors living in older affordable rental units are receiving eviction notices kicking them out of their homes, so they can be renovated and put back on the market – in some cases, for double the rent. In Dartmouth, a 62-year-old retired hospital worker who lives on a pension was renovicted twice from two different buildings – former units of $700 and $725 put back on the market for over $1,400. I will table that document as well. My question for the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services, it appears: With the renoviction ban being lifted, how many more seniors and Nova Scotians will find themselves out of house and home as a result of this decision by the government?

HON. COLTON LEBLANC « »: Again, Mr. Speaker, as I noted in my previous response, there is a process to follow. There was some question regarding the number of applications made since the ban was lifted last week. There were five applications made prior to the ban being lifted on the 21st. Since then, there were another seven. None of these applications have made it through the hearing process. As with any application to the Residential Tenancies process, there is a process to follow. Again, it is for substantial renovations to ensure the safety of the premises for all Nova Scotians.

THE SPEAKER « »: Before we go any further, it’s been noted that some members are on their phones. I’m going to ask that that not happen during Question Period especially.
The honourable member for Bedford South.

BRAEDON CLARK « »: Right now, today, there are over 2,800 low-income seniors waiting for affordable housing. Even more concerning than that is that seniors were not mentioned once in the Premier’s housing plan, and zero funds were earmarked for seniors on fixed incomes; of course, there are many. My question for the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing: How many of the new 373 affordable units in Dartmouth will be earmarked for seniors?

JOHN LOHR « »: I would like to thank the member for that question. We are very concerned about housing across the spectrum and the 373 units that we have announced will be managed by the by the landlord when that time comes so that how the distribution of who lands there will be up to them. There is a requirement for the landlord to confirm the income level and manage that. Who actually ends up in those units in a year and a half, hopefully – a year, a year and a half from now when those units are built, it will be up to that.

As far as it goes, Mr. Speaker, in public housing we have a substantial program for seniors on multiple levels, including keeping seniors in their own homes, which is helping them with furnaces, and roofs and that. We have a substantial number of seniors in our public housing units. So we are doing a lot for seniors.