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Liberals promise 10-year affordable housing plan, payouts for renovicted tenants

·4 min read
Liberals promise 10-year affordable housing plan, payouts for renovicted tenants
Liberal Leader Iain Rankin casts his ballot in the provincial election in Halifax on Friday, July 30, 2021. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press - image credit)
Liberal Leader Iain Rankin casts his ballot in the provincial election in Halifax on Friday, July 30, 2021. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press - image credit)

If given another mandate, a Liberal government would force landlords to pay tenants who've been subjected to so-called renovictions, give money and rebates to non-profits in the affordable housing sector, and introduce a new lunch program for school children.

The new election promises were made Friday as Liberal Leader Iain Rankin released the second of his party's five platform planks.

The first, released earlier this week, contained the party's health-care promises. The second contains a variety of programs aimed at equity and affordability.

"This platform is comprehensive, it's compassionate, and I believe this is our opportunity to truly build back better as we invest in people, as we ensure that our investments are better for the environment," said Rankin.

Many of the programs in the 12-page platform document have been previously announced, including $10-a-day child care by 2026, a bump to income assistance rates and the creation of an African Nova Scotian Justice Institute.

On the housing file, Rankin reiterated his commitment to spend $25 million to increase the supply and improve access to affordable housing, and to review housing-related legislation — two things recommended by the Affordable Housing Commission earlier this year.

On Friday, he promised to adopt some of the commission's other recommendations, including creating a 10-year housing strategy, rebating the provincial portion of HST on construction of affordable rentals, and putting money into a loan fund for non-profit housing organizations to buy rental properties that are for sale or at risk of being converted to market-rate housing.

Last fall, the Liberal government put a temporary cap on rent increases and banned renovictions — renovating rentals and then jacking up the rent — but those measures are due to expire with the COVID-19 state of emergency, and Rankin has said he does not intend to extend them. But Rankin said he would address the issue of renovictions another way.

Tenants being evicted for the purpose of renovations will be entitled to one month's rent for each year they've lived in the building, up to six months, to be paid out by the landlord.

Jean Laroche/CBC
Jean Laroche/CBC

Jim Graham, executive director of the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia and a member of the Affordable Housing Commission, was invited by the Liberals to speak Friday, and said he was very pleased with the new housing promises.

"Multiple approaches are what we need. There's not one way to solve our problem. I think this demonstrates a willingness to look at many options to increase the supply of affordable housing," said Graham.

He gave a special thanks for the plan to provide funding for non-profits to buy existing housing stock — something he said his organization has long advocated for.

On the school-lunch program, Rankin said his government would spend $3 million annually to subsidize healthy lunches for children in primary to Grade 6. Meals would cost, on average, $5 per day and the program would operate on a pay-what-you-can model.

The program would start in three communities with the highest child poverty rates.

Nova Scotia already has a school breakfast program. Rankin said the success and popularity of that program inspired the plan for school lunches.

Where other parties stand on housing

The New Democrats have promised to keep rent control in place if they are elected and build 1,000 new units in four years, including public housing units and units owned by co-operatives and non-profits. The NDP also says it would enable municipalities to adopt inclusionary zoning, which mandates some affordable units in new developments.

The NDP has also proposed exercising a first right of refusal for the province to acquire affordable housing stock that comes to market, and strengthening regulations on short-term rentals, which some communities say are eating into their long-term rental supply.

The Progressive Conservatives do not support rent control and have said the solution to the housing crisis is to encourage the construction of new housing stock.

PC housing promises include levying taxes on property owners who don't pay personal income tax in Nova Scotia, and directing Nova Scotia Lands to work with Housing Nova Scotia to create an inventory of lands that would be appropriate for new housing developments.

The Green Party platform says a Green government would increase the supply of shelter beds and transitional housing and adopt rent control on a short-term basis, to be reviewed for long-term use.

Other Green housing promises include establishing an arm's-length independent housing entity (as recommended by the housing commission, and accepted by the Liberals), and increasing the supply of public, co-operative and non-profit housing.

The Atlantica Party has not released any housing-related platform details.

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