Local Green MLA Megan Mitton says she’s afraid the housing crisis in Sackville and across New Brunswick is only going to get worse because the Higgs government lacks the will to fix it.
“We see what’s happened on King Street and we see there are other properties up for sale, people are being forced out of their housing and it’s all in the name of profit,” Mitton told a gathering of party supporters Saturday during a meeting at Open Sky Co-operative.
She was referring to the sale of a 16-unit apartment building at 15 King Street where tenants received notices that their leases were being terminated on July 1st.
Sunset Investments, the new landlord, has announced plans to renovate the building adding extra bedrooms for students and is now seeking to attract investors for half a dozen other apartment buildings here too.
The investment strategy, known by the acronym BRRRR, involves buying and renovating buildings to increase rental incomes. For an in-depth look at the strategy by CHMA’s Erica Butler, click here.
Housing as a human right
Mitton told supporters Saturday that housing is becoming corporatized.
“Something that should be treated as a human right, a basic human right to have housing, is being treated as a commodity.”
She said that when she urged Mary Wilson, the Conservative minister responsible for the Residential Tenancies Act, to bring in greater protections for tenants neither she, nor her officials seemed to have any answers.
“They asked me what I thought they should do,” Mitton said as her supporters laughed.
“Pass our bill,” Green Party leader David Coon said from the audience to more laughter.
Later, during an interview, both Coon and Mitton explained that the Conservatives had rejected two Green bills on housing as well as three amendments they brought forward last spring when a legislative committee was considering government proposals including a temporary 3.8% cap on rent increases.
The rent cap is due to expire at the end of the year, but the Greens want it made permanent.
One of their amendments also proposed putting the onus on landlords to justify renovations and imposed a ban on “renovictions” until the end of 2023. To read a CBC report on the Green amendments, click here.
Gov’t steps away from housing
“Most people probably don’t realize that the government has been out of the business of housing policy, ensuring there’s a supply of good housing that’s affordable since the year 2000,” Coon said during Saturday’s interview.
“That was the last year that any government department specifically had a responsibility for housing in this province,” he added.
Coon pointed out that in 1990, Liberal Premier Frank McKenna dismantled the New Brunswick Housing Corporation which was responsible for ensuring a supply of affordable housing including non-profit and co-operative housing.
“So, what the housing groups find is there really isn’t a right door to knock on any more in government if they’ve got a proposal for doing something,” he said.
“It’s a bit of a nightmare to line up all the various key people because there is no department or minister with a clear responsibility for housing.”
This is the first of two reports on the issues discussed at the Open Sky meeting.