At the very beginning of the pandemic, the New Brunswick government placed a moratorium on tenant evictions. This expired in June of 2020, only three months into the pandemic. Since then, we have seen an alarming increase in rents and a jump in the numbers of people being evicted because apartments are being renovated. Statistics Canada recently revealed that rents have gone up in New Brunswick more than in any other province in Canada.
I’ve heard from many constituents who have had their rent jacked up when a new owner purchased their apartment building, duplex, or rental house. Many of these apartments were already rented at prices the tenants could barely meet. With the sudden spike in rent, some are being forced out of their home. Vacancy rates are at historic lows, so finding an affordable apartment to rent has become extremely difficult.
The need for better tenant protection has never been clearer or more urgent, as tenants face the double whammy of steep and sudden rent increases and decreased income from job insecurity or loss due to Covid.
New Brunswick renters have fewer legal protections than other Canadians. This is why, almost two years ago, I tabled a bill to strengthen our weak Residential Tenancies Act, Unfortunately, it did not pass. Had it passed at that time, we would not be facing the scenario we are in today.
In November of 2020, I reintroduced a bill to establish rent controls to protect tenants from unreasonable rent increases. If adopted, it would prevent any increase in rent in the first year of tenancy, restrict rent increases to once a year, and impose a cap on rent increases.
I have also tabled a motion in the Legislative Assembly calling on the government to take urgent action, using its extraordinary powers under the Emergency Measures Act, to cap rent increases and stop evictions premised on renovation plans. The Premier could have acted, but instead, he initiated a time-delaying survey of the state of the rental market in the province.
Tenants cannot wait for the results of a three month investigation. Statistics Canada has already confirmed what my constituents have been telling me. Rents are increasing at an unaffordable rate.
The pressure for action on rents and the rights of tenants is growing stronger with the welcome appearance of the New Brunswick Coalition for Tenants Rights. They can be reached at https://www.nbtenants.ca/