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Report Recommends Student Housing Planning and Strengthened Tenant Protections

For Immediate Release  

Halifax, N.S. — A report released today by Students Nova Scotia recommends significant changes in policies impacting student housing. It argues that a widespread failure to plan for students is aggravating the housing challenges facing all low-income renters in university communities across Nova Scotia, and that the rules intended to protect tenants from abusive landlords are inadequate.

“In communities with universities vacancy rates are significantly lower than elsewhere and affordable rental housing is in short supply, largely as a result of student demand,” said Williams. “Universities and governments must recognize the challenges in university communities and take greater responsibility in ensuring their students and vulnerable community members are adequately housed.”

The report recommends that the Province work with post-secondary institutions, students, community organizations and the private sector to develop a student housing strategy. The strategy should aim to reduce pressure on rental markets by significantly expanding the housing supply available to students through their post-secondary institutions, especially in Peninsular Halifax.

“We have identified concrete solutions to improve housing affordability and tenant protections not just for students, but for all Nova Scotians.” said StudentsNS Executive Director, Jonathan Williams. “We need to expand affordable housing supply as the best way to address the affordable housing challenges facing students and other low-income Nova Scotians.”

The report recommends changes to the Nova Scotia Student Assistance Program to ensure all students can afford the housing options available in their communities and live in residence if they choose. Currently student assistance funding does not meet the costs of residence rooms and meal plans at Nova Scotia’s universities.

“Research shows that students living closer to their post-secondary institution have greater academic success, but student assistance funding is failing to keep up as residence rooms and rental housing near campus become increasingly expensive”, said StudentsNS Chair Amy Brierley. “For many, residence is a critical part of the university experience and the student assistance program should ensure that low-income students can access our residences just like higher income students.”

Finally, the report also recommends major reforms to the Province’s residential tenancy protections, which it finds are systematically inadequate and subject to widespread abuse by landlords.

“Our residential tenancy system puts the onus on tenants to self-advocate, but inadequate information and the cumbersome appeals process systematically undermine tenants’ ability to do so”, said Brierley. “Too many tenants are being exploited as landlords withhold damage deposits unjustly or fail to do basic upkeep. Simple and cost effective mechanisms can be used to ensure all landlords are fulfilling their responsibilities, and students and other community members are protected from abuse.”

Recommended reforms include:

  • Damage (security) deposits should be collected centrally by Access Nova Scotia along with in- and out-forms signed by tenants and landlords to certify the state of units at the beginning and end of a lease.

  • The Province or municipalities should create a “handyperson” service that would complete overdue repairs for which landlords are responsible at their expense.

  • Information on properties that is collected through these mechanisms should be made available to the public to help support tenant self-advocacy.

The report was prepared by StudentsNS employees Brian Foster, Jonathan Williams and Danielle Andres.

To access the report, click here.

 

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Students Nova Scotia (StudentsNS) is a not-for-profit and non-partisan advocacy group that represents 38,452 Nova Scotia post-secondary students, including 87% of the university student population. Our members study at Acadia, Cape Breton, Dalhousie, Saint Mary’s, and St. Francis Xavier Universities, the Kingstec Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College, and the Atlantic School of Theology.

 

For more information or questions, please contact:

Jonathan Williams

StudentsNS Executive Director

(O) 902.422.4068

(C) 902.483.5480

(E) director@studentsns.ca

or

Amy Brierley

StudentsNS Chair

(O) 902.867.2440

(C) 905.703.6721

(E) su_userv@stfx.ca

Kate Elliot