Greens call for moratorium on apartment-to-condo conversions in P.E.I.

Green MLA and housing critic Peter Bevan-Baker says the number of housing starts is not enough to meet P.E.I.'s housing crisis. (Legislative Assembly of P.E.I. - image credit)

The P.E.I. Green Party is asking provincial Housing Minister Rob Lantz to place a moratorium on the conversion of rental units to condominiums.

Last month, residents of Belvedere Terrace, a block of 16 townhouses in Charlottetown, were told their rental units were being sold and converted to condos. Their current landlord, Norray Properties, left them with three options: buy their units for $329,000 each, apply for the province's rent-to-own program, or leave.

Peter Bevan-Baker, the Green Party's housing critic, said in a news release that housing starts in the province have not increased enough to meet the demands of the current housing crisis.

"Until [Lantz] can properly address the housing crisis, and the number of housing starts actually meets demand, he should put a pause on this growing trend that permanently removes rental units from the market," Bevan-Baker said.

A statement from the Department of Housing, Land and Communities said the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) is still quite new, so some amendments could be on the way.

"We have begun meeting with tenant and landlord advocates, and we will continue to have these discussions and consider all feedback that we receive in developing future amendments to the RTA," the statement said.

P.E.I.'s Residential Tenancies Act was proclaimed just over a year ago, but it had been in the works since 2019. It replaced the 30-year-old Rental of Residential Properties Act.

During the spring sitting of the legislature, Lantz said the government would very likely bring forward amendments in the fall to correct some things in the act, but he didn't say what those changes might be.

Lanlords have 'lots of options'

Apartment units being converted to condominiums is not a new problem for P.E.I. tenants. Some landlords have said the act's maximum rental increase cap of three per cent per year is not enough for them to make ends meet, forcing them to sell their rental units.

In an interview with CBC News, Bevan-Baker said P.E.I. could follow the lead of some other jurisdictions and designate particular zones for rental-use-only buildings.

"This is being done in British Colombia," he said. "It prevents the conversion of a rental unit to something else, in this case a condominium."

Bevan-Baker said there are "lots of options" for landlords on P.E.I. to make a reasonable return on their investment, but that the immediate focus has to be on the tenants who are about to lose their homes.