On the Brink: Halifax-area landlords say housing crisis is harming them too - Read of Green
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On the Brink: Halifax-area landlords say housing crisis is harming them too

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Source: Marijuana Moment

Last week, we brought you a series called ‘On the Brink,’ which profiles people who are struggling with the rising cost of living. In this story, we hear from two landlords who talk about how the housing crisis is impacting them.

Two landlords in the Halifax area are calling for government solutions to the housing crisis, saying they’re not equipped to absorb extra costs as the cost of living rises.

Andrea Belair is the definition of a small landlord. She owns a two-unit property in Dartmouth that she purchased in 2011, and rents a home for herself in Halifax.

“For me, it is more of an investment rather than a business,” she said. “It’s basically just trying to get equity into the house.”

She said it’s important to her to have a good relationship with her tenants and provide them with an affordable place to live.

“I just wanted to be a good landlord,” she said. “I want them to stay there forever.”

Belair hasn’t raised rent on the units since 2018. The tenants each pay $880 per month, though she does plan to raise the rent by five per cent in the new year once the provincial rent cap increases.

She said she’s never made a profit by renting the units out, especially in recent years when the rising cost of insurance and other expenses have begun to pile up.

“I’m not making any money off that property, other than the equity in it,” she said.

“And that’s great, because it’s worth a lot more now than it was when I purchased it, but you don’t see that equity until you sell the house, so it’s not really helping right now.”


Andrea Belair owns two rental units in Dartmouth.


Megan King/Global News

With the skyrocketing cost of rent in recent years, Belair recognizes that many tenants are being stretched thin.

While there’s “no easy fix,” Belair said she doesn’t believe rent control is the answer. She said more needs to be done to help tenants, like improving the provincial rent subsidy program.

People can apply to the Canada-Nova Scotia Targeted Housing Benefit if they spend more than 50 per cent of their household income on housing. Both renters and homeowners can qualify, with homeowners eligible to receive up to $200 per month.

The threshold used to be 30 per cent, but it was quietly raised earlier this year.

In a recent Global News series called On the Brink, we profiled a number of tenants who are having difficulty getting by, one of whom brought up the limitations of the rental subsidy.

Liz Myers, a senior who lives in a converted laundry room and is looking to move, said she’s currently getting the rental subsidy but would no longer qualify if she were to get a roommate.

“I would lose that extra help, that financial help every month,” Myers told Global News.

Belair said there need to be better programs available for tenants who need help.

“I think the housing crisis is terrible,” she said.

Not a ‘not-for-profit’

Mike Burgess owns and runs 11 buildings in north-end Dartmouth, renting out a total of 77 units. He said many of those units are under-market, going for about $700 to $900 a month.

But the rising price of insurance, heating and taxes is making it difficult to keep prices affordable.

“Insurance rates increased 40 per cent one year, and then another 20 per cent the next year,” Burgess said.

He said last year in an oil-heated building, he was paying $300 per month per unit just in oil.

“Take that out of an eight- or nine-hundred-dollar-a-month rent, there’s not much left for all of the other expenses,” he said.


Mike Burgess owns and runs 11 buildings in north-end Dartmouth, renting out a total of 77 units.


Alex Cooke/Global News

The rock-bottom vacancy rates in the area is also causing tenants to stay put, so there isn’t much turnover, which would allow Burgess to raise prices closer to market rate.

While it’s tough on his bottom line, he understands why tenants don’t want to move – they could be paying $1,600 or more per month for a nearly “identical apartment.”

“I really struggle (with,) how do I make it work for both of us?” he said.

Burgess said these expenses are making it more difficult for local landlords to get by, and he knows of several who sold off their properties because renting them out just isn’t feasible anymore.

He said small landlords are being choked out in favour of larger real estate investment trusts, which are better equipped to handle rising property costs.

“We’re heading towards our province being run by REITs as opposed to small mom-and-pop investors,” he said.

Burgess said more public housing stock is desperately needed, so there’s more of a mix of different housing options for people with varying incomes.

While the province recently announced it would begin building public housing again after a nearly 30-year hiatus, only 222 new units were announced in a province with a rapidly increasing population.

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