Province freezes rent hikes, postpones non-urgent eviction hearings

By | March 24, 2020

Manitoba is freezing all rent increases and postponing all non-urgent eviction hearings in response to economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Premier Brian Pallister says.

“We are ensuring that no Manitobans will be evicted in the coming weeks as a direct result of the impact of COVID-19,” Pallister announced at a Tuesday news conference.

The province announced Tuesday morning that one new case of COVID-19 had been identified in Manitoba, bringing the current total to 21 — 11 confirmed, and 10 probable.

The Residential Tenancies Branch and Residential Tenancies Commission will postpone all hearings, except for issues involving tenants’ health and safety, and unlawful activity.

“These measures we’re announcing today are not a rent holiday for the whole of the province,” Pallister said.

WATCH | Bartley Kives has more on today’s developments:

Premier Brian Pallister says the low case numbers in Manitoba should not be used as an excuse to ignore physical distancing advice. 2:12

“They’re designed to assist those who are living in fear right now that their rents may rise … and also to make sure that they’re not afraid of being evicted because of temporary short-term concerns.”

Eviction hearings will be postponed until May 31, but changes may be made as the situation surrounding COVID-19 evolves.

‘Helicopter approach’

Many companies, such as New Flyer, are laying off workers. Subsequently, applications for employment insurance are increasing.

Pallister was asked about the possibility of a universal income insurance plan, which could help people pay their rent.

This, the premier said, is known as “the helicopter approach” — dumping money out of a helicopter flying above a crowd — and it would not be the correct course of action at this time.

Pallister cited measures already in place, like the province’s rent assistance program, which has about $37 million available. It also has its employment insurance program, which covers 55 per cent of a person’s income. 

“The question of what is enough will be better evaluated over time. But we’ve taken nothing off the table. We’ll continue to evaluate,” Pallister said.

“Today we’re doing what we feel is right for today.”

WATCH | Premier Brian Pallister on economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic:

Manitoba is freezing all rent increases and postponing all non-urgent eviction hearings in response to economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 39:07

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