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Emergency energy help needed for smaller rental housing providers

With massive power rate increases looming and oil and gas prices going through the roof as winter approaches, smaller rental housing providers need emergency financial help from the government to stay open.

Mike Burgess owns a 12-unit property in north-end Dartmouth.  With a 1,136-litre fuel tank, Burgess paid $988 – or $82 per unit in November 2020 to fill the tank.  In October 2022, Burgess paid $2,396 – or $199 per unit – to fill the tank.

In 2020, Burgess spent $12,180 on oil heat for this building.  With two months to go to the end of 2022, Burgess has already burned through $24,616.

With the average monthly rent in the building at $865, the 2% rent cap means that Burgess is already losing more than $10,000 on the building – not including extra costs like insurance, labour and taxes.

“Nova Scotia will never fix the housing crisis by financially crushing small rental housing providers – which is what the rent cap does when every other cost goes through the roof,” said Burgess. “A big profitable corporation like Nova Scotia Power gets a free pass to recover their fuel costs – why doesn’t a small businessperson like me burning through cash get the same break?”

Burgess notes that when the federal government’s carbon tax is imposed on Nova Scotia, the promised federal rebate cheques go to individuals, whether or not they pay the energy, not the rental housing provider responsible for the increased costs.

“I don’t begrudge anybody help, but how fair is it that the person who is actually paying the heating bills, as I am, is not getting any help?” asked Burgess.

The Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia (IPOANS) says the government has two options that could provide immediate help:

  • Amend the Residential Tenancies Act to allow heating and water costs to be exempt from the 2% rent cap to allow rental housing providers to recover these skyrocketing costs; or
  • Introduce an emergency assistance program to provide financial relief for smaller rental housing providers based on the provincial government’s Heating Assistance Rebate Program.
“On a single day, I received half a dozen phone calls from small landlords who are facing a financial brick wall,” said Kevin Russell, Executive Director of the Investment Property Owners Association. “We are in a crisis, rental housing providers need help, but our government is nowhere to be found to work on solutions.”

Two surveys by IPOANS this year have shown more than 12,000 rental units are being sold or at risk of being sold due to provincial government policy.  This puts thousands of Nova Scotians at risk of being homeless.

c: Kevin Russell
t: (902) 789-0946