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Manitoba housing advocates, property managers react to proposed federal rent reform

Housing advocates say the federal government’s proposed rent reforms are a step in the right direction.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new measures he says will help protect Canadian renters and help them unlock the potential of home ownership.

The proposed changes would allow tenants to count on-time rent payments toward their credit score, require landlords to disclose property pricing history so tenants can bargain fairly on their rent and will provide $15 million in new funding to provincial legal aid organizations to protect tenants from unfair rising rent, evictions and “bad landlords.”

“We’re glad to see them pay attention to renters,” Yutaka Dirks, the senior policy and outreach advisor for the Canadian Centre for Housing Rights, told Global News.

Dirks said renters account for one-third of all households in Manitoba. He says having a bill that prevents excessive rent increases will help keep neighbourhoods affordable.

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“Preventing excessive rent increases not only sort of keeps buildings and neighbourhoods affordable, but it also keeps the people living there from being forced out because of high rent increases,” Dirks said.

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While each province and territory has its own individual rental tenancies act, Dirks says he hopes this bill will lead to higher standards across the board.

“We know it would require some co-ordination between the provinces and we hope that it leads to a raised bar for everyone as opposed to a lowest common denominator, because some provinces unfortunately have lesser protections than we do here in Manitoba,” he said.

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Avrom Charach, a spokesperson with the Professional Property Managers Association of Manitoba, says while the proposed bill has good intentions, some of the changes are already covered under the Residential Tenancies Act of Manitoba.

“Overall, it’s a little bit of smoke and mirrors because it’s really not going to change much. But politicians are known for that,” Charach told Global News.

“But if it does change what they want them to change, it’s overall positive.”

Charach said he does have some concern with providing funding to legal aid organizations to help tenants deal with “bad landlords.”

“The devil is in the details there,” he said.

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“The only concern we have is a tenant calls up and says ‘My landlord is bad’ and they give them money, and the landlord is not bad in that case.”

In an emailed statement, a provincial housing ministerial spokesperson said ensuring there are more social and affordable housing options for Manitobans is a top priority of the Manitoba NDP government.

“We support making life more affordable for everyone, including renters, and helping to make the dream of home ownership a reality,” the statement read.

“We’ll introduce new measures to help lower costs for people in our budget coming Tuesday. We anticipate future partnerships with Canada and look forward to further details about their housing initiatives once their budget is released.”

The Manitoba NDP government will be unveiling its first provincial budget on Tuesday, while the federal budget will be unveiled in the House of Commons on April 16.

— with files from Naomi Barghiel

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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