Premier-designate Tim Houston agrees the lack of housing in Nova Scotia is a “crisis.” But in his first appearance with chief medical officer of health Robert Strang, the Progressive Conservative leader repeated his campaign message that rent control is not the fix.
“I don't believe that rent control is a solution to the housing crisis, I have calls from people who have lost their rental because of rent control,” Houston said Monday. The premier-designate fielded questions about affordable housing and Halifax Regional Police’s use of force at his debut COVID-19 briefing alongside Nova Scotia’s top doctor.
“The solution to a housing crisis is more housing, we need more housing,” Houston said. Nova Scotia’s current two percent rent increase limit is contingent on the COVID state of emergency. Once the state of emergency is lifted, so is rent control, and landlords will be able to raise rent on new leases without a cap.
When asked why his government intends to halt rent control before Nova Scotia’s housing stock has increased, Houston answered with a question of his own: “What does that do to those that were thinking about building?”
“What I want is more housing stock in this province,” he said. “And we don't want to do something in the interim, that gets us away from achieving the goal that we need to achieve.”
Houston was asked what this plan means for those who will be priced out of their apartments and how his government will support those who are left unhoused when rent control ends. The premier-designate said, “nobody wants to see somebody homeless,” but couldn’t say how he intends to bridge the housing gap.
“Look, we're going to have discussions with the (Housing Commission), we’ll talk to not-for-profit groups, we'll talk to anyone who wants to talk to us with ideas and solutions.”
When asked about the use of force and pepper spray by the police at last week’s shelter siege, Houston said, “obviously that was an HRM decision” and he’s spoken to mayor Mike Savage “to try to understand how it got to that point.”
Throughout the day last Wednesday, August 18, a total of 24 people were arrested while attempting to block police from forcibly removing wooden shelters and tents at parks across the HRM. The police have been criticized for use of force in the arrests, the widespread lack of nametags among officers present and the use of pepper spray which hurt at least one child.
“I don't think anyone wants to see violence on either side, and law enforcement was doing their job,” Houston said.
Police chief Dan Kinsella, who was not present during last week’s arrests, defended the use of force by his team.