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Lively community meeting tackles landlord licensing and rent control

ACORN Nova Scotia establishes Halifax chapter

by Robert Devet

Lots of people came out to the Gotttingen Street public library to talk about housing issues facing people on low income. The meeting was organized by ACORN Nova Scotia.  Photo Robert Devet
Lots of people came out to the Gotttingen Street public library to talk about housing issues facing people on low income. The meeting was organized by ACORN Nova Scotia. Photo Robert Devet

K'JIPUKTUK (Halifax) - For many people in Nova Scotia bed bugs, Nova Scotia Power bills and rent increases are much like the weather. You can complain about it, but it's not going to make a difference.

ACORN Nova Scotia wants to add its voice to other organizations in Halifax that want to change that. ACORN Nova Scotia is part of a national organization of low and moderate income people, with over 52,000 members across the country.

At a lively ACORN community meeting held last night in the Gottingen Street public library about 30 people gathered to talk about slum landlords, sub-standard rooming houses, bed bugs, rats, cockroaches, power bills, rent increases and other issues that often make lives of people on low incomes miserable.

"Some rooming houses are an absolute disgrace," said one attendant. "There are buildings in this city that are packed with people, that are not safe. There is no fire protection, and if you say something to the landlord he tells you that if you don't like it you can just leave."

"One landlord, when asked if he was going to spray for bed bugs, replied that if you don't like it I will give you $200 and you can move out. No consideration for humanity at all."

"Where I am living at right now, we don't even have a stove or a fridge that works, all we have is cold water, we don't have a toilet, things leak," said another attendant.

Others talked about long waiting lists for public housing, apartments that become unaffordable because of rent increases, and publicly owned buildings that are empty and could be converted into affordable housing.

Landlord licensing and rent control are two measures that ACORN wants to see instituted in the Halifax Reginal Municipality. People at the meeting had lots of questions.

Landlord licensing would be similar to restaurant licensing, said Jonethan Brigley, one of the spokespeople for ACORN Nova Scotia. Just like you need a license to drive a car, or run a restaurant a landlord would need a license to rent out an apartment. No license for the landlord if the apartment is not up to snuff.

Landlord licensing is not an entirely new concept in Canada. An ACORN brochure on the topic explains that cities such as London, Toronto and Vancouver all have a landlord licensing system in place.

And Halifax Council is willing to look at landlord licensing. In November 2013 councillors asked staff to review its current bylaws, consult with landlords and tenants, and report back to Regional Council.

Brigley and other ACORN members met with Councillor Waye Mason in March of this year. Mason and four other councillors have come out in favour of the idea, but others are undecided or strongly oppose the notion, says Brigley.

Rent control is also needed, to keep rents affordable for low-income people and prevent unreasonable rent increases, but this is a more long-term campaign, said Brigley.

Towards the end of the meeting ACORN members voted for a Board of Directors and formally established the ACORN North End Halifax chapter. A Dartmouth chapter is also in the works, Shay Enxuga, an ACORN staff member, told the Halifax Media Co-op.

On Tuesday May 13th ACORN Nova Scotia is organizing a rally at City Hall in support of its demands for rent control and landlord licensing.

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert


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