The provincial government may spend millions of dollars a year to rent inferior housing, but doesn’t keep records that can confirm exactly how much.
NDP Housing Critic Gerry Rogers (MHA, St. John’s Centre) recently filed an Access to Information request in an attempt to uncover how much government pays “directly to landlords on behalf of AES clients for accommodations in rooming houses, bedsitters, private shelters and boarding houses.”
It turns out that the Department of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour gave $15.5 million directly to landlords between April 1 and Dec. 31 last year, but doesn’t keep track of what exactly that money is spent on. The response reads that “the system does not differentiate by type of residence acquired.” The clients in question may be included in AESL’s Board and Lodging Daily Rates category, the Rent category, or Board and Lodging with Non-Relatives.
“How can they expect to solve a problem if they don’t even have any idea how big it is? This is absolutely irresponsible,” Rogers said today.
“We’ve been promised a new Residential Tenancies Act since 2012. Two governments and a succession of ministers have sat on the issue while we pay for these decrepit, dangerous lodgings. Why are they dragging their heels?”
Rogers wants bedsitting rooms, boarding houses, and rooming houses included in the Residential Tenancies Act. If they were, she says, municipal inspectors would be empowered to enter premises and force improvements.
“It’s irresponsible use of public money. If we spent millions on computers, we’d demand value for money,”said the NDP MHA. “We have an excellent alternative model in the community groups who provide safe, respectful and supportive housing for vulnerable people. We must stop handing out millions to unaccountable slumlords.”