Bob Danilis is one of thousands of Manitobans who will need to pinch pennies to afford rent after his Grant Avenue apartment complex was approved for a 30 per cent rent increase this fall.
Danilis’ unit, which has seen an increase of more than $300 a month, is one of more than 20,000 units that have seen above guideline rent increases this year, according to data from an NDP freedom of information request.
"This increase for me equates to a 50 per cent loss of income," Danilis said at a news conference outside his apartment building Sunday. "I have to work two weeks just to afford to live in this building now."
'This increase for me equates to a 50 per cent loss of income'‐ tenant Bob Danilis, whose rent has increased by $300 per month
This summer, Danilis was paying $867 monthly for his one-bedroom apartment, but that number has increased to $1,187. No work was done to the interior of the apartment, Danilis said, and some of the exterior changes — such as moving the garbage bins outdoors — have made life less convenient for tenants.
"This 30 per cent increase in rent is not only affecting me, but all the tenants in this building," he said. "We’ve seen people moving in and out this past two weeks in droves."
Opposition Leader Wab Kinew and MLA Adrien Sala told journalists the province has approved 100 per cent of above-guideline increases this year. A total of 310 rent increases above the Residential Tenancies Branch 2.4 per cent cap were approved in the 2019-20 fiscal year, the NDP’s information request found.
Approximately one in four of those rent increases were 10 per cent or higher. Of those increases, 15 per cent rose by 30 per cent or more this year.
"We have way too many seniors, people on fixed incomes, working Manitobans who are in a position of housing insecurity and who are facing the potential of ‘renoviction’ in the middle of a pandemic," Sala said.
"We need Brian Pallister and his cabinet to put a halt to these above guideline rent increases that are happening in the middle of a pandemic, and we need to revisit RTB legislation to ensure we strike a better balance between the interests of renters and property owners in Manitoba."
Kinew noted that while many Manitobans believe the province provides restrictions on rent increases, those rent control measures are not being utilized.
While the Residential Tenancies Branch set a ceiling on rent increases for 2020, exceptions can be approved for landlords who can show the maximum increase will not cover cost increases they have incurred. Increases must be announced two months in advance, the branch dictates.
The rent increase cap for 2021 is set at 1.6 per cent.
Still, the increases have detrimental impacts for working Manitobans like Danilis, who do not expect their wages to rise accordingly in the coming year.
"This has to stop happening to everyday people that are trying to survive during a pandemic," Danilis said. "This isn’t money before people... you can’t boost the economy if you can’t afford to live."
Julia-Simone Rutgers is a general-assignment reporter.