ROGER TAYLOR: Investment property owners aim to counter anti-landlord sentiment

A Nova Scotia landlord organization, opposed to the implementation of government rent controls in the province, says it is working on ways to address “reno-victions” and dramatically escalating rent increases.

Kevin Russell, executive director of the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia, says his group is trying to find solutions to a complex issue. The association’s response will likely be made public in the next couple of months.

In the meantime, it has launched a campaign to counter negative coverage of the property rental sector, especially during the recent provincial election, by explaining why members think rent controls are not the answer.

In a recent full-page advertisement in The Chronicle Herald, IPOANS and 25 property owners and managers criticized recent examples of unfair future rent increases being sent to tenants. The increases would be applied once the state of emergency rent control measures are lifted.

“We strongly condemn unreasonable rent renewal increases,” Russell said in a news release.

“IPOANS and its members remain committed to a thriving Nova Scotia where no one is left behind. The actions of a few do not represent the majority of professional landlords and property owners operating in Nova Scotia.”

The organization has also written to Premier Tim Houston and Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Lohr to offer support for building more affordable housing units and other measures the government could take to protect responsible landlords and tenants, said Russell.

While it is early days for the Progressive Conservative government, IPOANS has not yet received any feedback from Houston or the minister.

“They certainly know our position and where we are at with our position,” Russell said in an interview.

“We’re not in favour of the rent control, of course, and for the right reasons.

“We know, in the long term, rent control is a demotivator for investment into purpose-built rental buildings and we do need construction and more development of rental units and . . . in the long term it impacts negatively tenants. And, I know from today’s point of view, and the view of the world in the moment, it’s something that’s getting lost in the debate.”

In a report made on behalf of IPOANS, consulting firm Gardner Pinfold provided some background on rental housing affordability in Nova Scotia.

“Rent control reduces supply of units,” it stated in the report, “as property owners shift their attention and investment to condo developments, new apartments, or other markets/jurisdictions not subject to rent control (investment exodus). The shift is the result of both putting less money into older buildings and accelerating the timeline for demolishing and redeveloping older buildings.

“Since investment capital for larger players tends to be mobile, resources are diverted to other more profitable opportunities. This reduces the number of rent control units and . . . the number of ‘affordable’ units but may not reduce the total number of rental units. This finding is quite consistent across jurisdictions and is one of the most studied aspects of rent control.”

The association has also called on governments to build more affordable rental housing to address the problem.

“Governments, not-for-profits and private housing sectors must work together to create more affordable housing as quickly as possible. The Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission has provided the roadmap for that, we think,” said Russell.

Published in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald/Saltwire Network – September 8