Perceptions of rooming houses in Halifax and the role of regulatory intervention
Rooming houses in Halifax have experienced significant loss in recent decades. Up to 90% of the stock was lost due to social, economic, and regulatory factors. While only 17 licensed rooming houses remain in Halifax, over a hundred illegal rooming houses may exist in the city. The illegal rooming houses are often called “quasi” rooming houses by municipal staff and typically house students near the universities. The loss of this affordable housing option for low-income single persons is concerning, while little is known about quasi rooming houses. I conducted interviews with community stakeholders to study the social and policy context of this affordable housing option. The interview respondents shared their perceptions on the challenges facing rooming houses in Halifax. They identified licensing and enforcement and a lack of higher- level government support as the major challenges facing rooming houses. Most rooming houses in Halifax are not recognized or monitored under the licensing regime. Respondents expressed concern for tenants in vulnerable situations and suggested landlords must be held accountable. There is a desire for more regulation but recognition that higher-level support is needed to address systemic issues related to poverty. Victorian values of privacy and cleanliness and contemporary values of autonomy, contribute to a discourse that depicts rooming houses residents as helpless and in need of regulatory intervention. A dilemma arises with the realization that municipal regulation, even based on good intention, can lead to further rooming house loss and the displacement of people. Regulatory intervention does not address the social and economic systemic issues around rooming houses. The nature of the problem is too complex for a planning solution alone.
Derksen, Janelle. (2016). Perceptions of rooming houses in Halifax and the role of regulatory intervention. Halifax N. S.: Dalhousie University.