Dozens of people took to the sidewalk across from Province House on Wednesday to call on the government to fix the housing crisis.
Housing is a human right!
We will not give up the fight!
When I say HOUSING, you say JUSTICE!
Mass evictions are the worst!
Time to put the people first!
Sam Krawec, a co-organizer of the rally, read an open letter to Premier Tim Houston’s PC government. Krawec called on the government to immediately build more non-market housing, create permanent rent control with a 3% cap, and abolish fixed-term leases.
“Landlords have been using fixed-term leases as a loophole to get out of their responsibilities towards tenants, avoid the rent cap, and sidestep the eviction process,” Krawec said.
“So long as this loophole exists, tenant rights will be continually under threat and profit-driven landlords will continue to abuse their power.”
PCs voted against fixed-term lease amendments
On Monday, PC MLAs used their majority on the Law Amendments Committee to vote against NDP amendments to their rent cap bill to close the fixed-term lease loophole.
NDP MLA and housing critic Suzy Hansen told the rally the PC government did nothing for housing with its latest budget.
“Shame, shame on them for not looking at the fact that people are struggling on the street, people are struggling to make ends meet, and yet we still don’t have anything to show for it by this government,” Hansen said.
“The housing landscape in Nova Scotia, as we know, is continuing to worsen.”
Failure of ‘successive governments’
Christine Saulnier, director of the Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, told the crowd that weak protections for tenants during the housing crisis means landlords are exploiting tenants.
“The lack of protection ensures that tenants are beholden to landlords. It leaves the power in their hands and leaves tenants in stress because they ultimately do not know what will happen to their housing at any time,” Saulnier said.
“We have successive governments who have been unwilling to rebalance the power relationship. Instead we hear explicitly from Premier Houston that he needs to balance people’s right to housing with a landlord’s ability to profit.”
Saulnier said Nova Scotia needs 50,000 units of non-market housing to meet demand.
“We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have successive government dropping the ball,” Saulnier said.
“It is not surprising or shocking that we are here in this crisis. We told them so. We know what the solutions are and we’ve known them for decades.”
Unhoused people’s experience
Lauren Oliver lived outside all winter, except for a week in a hotel, and told the crowd they recently built their own shelter.
“Is people sleeping on the streets truly a problem based on lack of structures? A world full of garbage we throw away and burn and we can’t come up with enough four-walled structures to house people? Surely, I am not that foolish and I hope sincerely hope anyone here is not that dumb, too,” Oliver said.
Oliver pushed back against the perception that unhoused people are mentally ill, and said people who want to help them always bring food, and never money.
“Money is often frowned upon as the idea is I will spend it to fund my perceived addictions, so often people leave food,” Oliver said.
“Do not misunderstand me, I am grateful. My point is about the lack of leadership and true authenticity and working with people as people versus the homeless aid industry. No individual will stop this. Homelessness or to not have a home truly is more about not having a supportive and safe community.”
A man who called himself Tommy spoke to the rally after he and a few other men called on the organizers to let them speak.
“I’ve been beat up so many times, been robbed, everything stolen from me, and all I hear from you people is, ‘Let’s do a chant,'” Tommy told the crowd.
Stacey Gomez spoke to the rally about her experience being renovicted, and her ongoing fight with her landlord, Marcus Ranjbar.
“I think we need to have an end to renovictions, and if repairs are deemed to be necessary, tenants should have a right to come back to their units, and that should be enshrined in the Residential Tenancies Act,” Gomez said.
“Until we have stronger renoviction protections, landlords can skirt the rent cap by ousting tenants through renovictions and increase the rent to new tenants. They have a profit motive to do that.”