It is no secret that Halifax is in a housing crisis, one which has led to increased instances of houselessness. But just how bad is it? The answer is worse than you may think.
A quick search on Kijiji or Facebooks “Market Place” will show the grim reality of the Halifax rental market. Overpriced, overcapacity, rentals failing to follow safety standards, and some not even having a functioning stove. It is commonplace to see one-bedroom rentals going for the rate of $1400 to $3000 a month. An unfathomable asking price considering the minimum wage in Nova Scotia is a mere $12.55 an hour, a monthly income of roughly $1700 a month.
The out of control rental market is just one of the factors contributing to increased instances of houselessness. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused job and income loss. This coupled with rising rent prices means many are left having to put up with dodgy landlords or turn to the streets.
Worse yet is the explosion of AirBnBs being turned into temporary rentals – overpriced, cramped, and furnished with Ikea’s cheapest items.
The Nova Scotia Government has continued to ignore the housing crisis and has yet to consider implementing rent control. With Halifax Today highlighting that Premier Stephen McNeil was asked after the October 29th cabinet meeting to “respond to a recent report of Fairview-area residents being told their rent would go up $650 as of April. For some, that equalled a 90 percent increase.” The Premier responded, “We just don’t believe they work”.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives recently put out their 2020 report on Living Wages in both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The living wage for Halifax was calculated at $21.80, while the living wage for Cape Breton Regional Municipality was calculated at $17.65. The current minimum wage in Nova Scotia is well below these numbers, leaving folks high and dry when it comes to the cost of living across the province. A stagnant minimum wage coupled with a 9% increase in rent over the past two years it is no wonder so many Nova Scotians are left to struggle. These factors along with the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an increase in the homeless population due to rent increases, low wages, loss of jobs, and homeless shelters having less capacity due to the pandemic.
Some of those struggling have no choice but to turn to the streets, leading some support workers to put a call out for tent donations. With the days becoming shorter and colder sleeping rough (on benches or outside in tents) becomes even more risky.
What is clear is that there are many factors contributing to the houseless population, and mental health struggles here in the province. But what is even more clear is that something can be done about it, and that starts with rent control and affordable housing. Housing is a human right, and our governments denial of this right while the rich get richer is an outrage.
To take action join the “Rent Control Now” Rally at the Halifax City Hall this Saturday November 7 at 2pm. You can contact email@example.com to get more information about how to get involved in the fight for housing. We deserve better, we must demand better.
If you or someone you know needs immediate mental health help call CMHA NS: 1-888-429-8167 Or contact, NS Health / Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868/ Crisis Services Canada, phone: 1-833-456-4566 or text: 45645
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