The rising cost of living is a major concern for many people in Nova Scotia, as the price of basic necessities like housing, groceries and gas continues to rise while wages fall short.
The economic crisis is particularly felt by young people and young adults, who had less time to settle into their careers and accumulate wealth before inflation began to spiral out of control.
While college or university is seen as a way for people to improve their abilities to get better paying jobs, the situation is forcing some to reconsider their education.
Calls continue for the Nova Scotia government to mitigate the impact of the rising cost of living
“We’ve heard a lot of stories from people, especially during the pandemic and now in the future, who have had to make tough decisions about access to education,” said Lydia Houck, executive director of Students Nova. Scotia.
“Whether it’s choosing to go to another province to study, choosing to take time off to go to work or, in the case of some international students, returning home simply because the costs are unsustainable here .
Mahmoud Sayed, a 19-year-old student at Dalhousie University, told Global News that if prices continue to rise, he won’t be able to continue his post-secondary education.
Full-time study and part-time work is a lot to do, but recently he had to land a second part-time job just to keep up.
“I think I’m living the worst student life right now,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t have a lot of free time…and I’m taking another job (in) security to afford more money.”
The high cost of living means he has to live with his parents, Sayed said.
“As a student and as a part-time (worker) I don’t have that income to live on, which made me live with my parents,” he says.
“Of course, I take student loans, but that’s not enough. Gas prices are very high, insurance is very high, and the expenses we need as a student for books… tuition.
“These days, I have to think twice before spending a dollar.”
According to RBC Real accessibility index of young townswhich measures income against the cost of living in 27 cities across the country, Halifax is the least affordable city in Canada for people aged 15-29.
“Regionally, Eastern Canadian cities are the least affordable overall, primarily due to the East Coast wage cut, while cities in Alberta and Quebec offer more opportunities for young people. ‘save money,’ says an RBC statement.
The rising cost of housing is one of the determinants of affordability.
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According to rentals.ca Rental report May 2022, the average monthly cost of rent in Halifax last month was $1,621 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,962 for a two-bedroom apartment. In February 2020, those numbers were $1,286 and $1,614, respectively.
Nova Scotia’s booming housing market, with bidding wars and homes often selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars above demand, is also making it increasingly difficult for people to save for a deposit.
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A 2% rent cap is currently in place, but it is expected to be lifted at the end of 2023. This loss of rent control is a source of anxiety for 24-year-old Douglas Wetmore.
Wetmore rents a two-bedroom apartment in Halifax with his partner. He said they are in a “privileged position” where they can stay afloat with the help of their family, but their monthly rent of around $1,800 – below average for a two-bedroom apartment – makes the difficult things.
“Not only is that absurd in itself, but it stresses us out because if the 2% rent cap were to be lifted at any time, there’s no telling how much our rent would go up, and whether it would displace us immediately. ” he said.
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The cost of living, especially on the Halifax Peninsula, forced some of his friends out of town.
But since many jobs and services remain in Halifax, moving isn’t necessarily a solution, especially when gas prices continue to rise and public transit is unreliable outside the urban core.
“A lot of my friends who moved off the peninsula are now struggling to pay for gas just to get into town,” Wetmore said.
“If you want this reliable public transport alternative, your only option is to live downtown where you face another cost. So it’s a lose-lose scenario.
“Problems come to us from so many angles.”
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Wetmore said the government should keep the rent cap in place longer to provide stability and prevent people from being displaced once it is lifted.
“It’s not the long-term fix we need for affordability, but it does alleviate a lot of the short-term stress,” he said.
“That’s what people need right now to stay comfortable.”
In terms of long-term affordability, Wetmore said further action is needed to prevent so-called “renovations” and improve affordability in the city center.
Nova Scotia finance minister rules out gas tax cut as prices rise
Earlier in the week, Nova Scotia Finance Minister Allan MacMaster said the province was working on a targeted relief package for low-income people.
MacMaster said following a cabinet meeting on Thursday that help will be coming “soon” for those on welfare and those on low incomes, building on a package announced in March.
The $13.2 million package included a one-time payment of $150 to those on income assistance and those who qualified for provincial heating assistance reimbursement, among other measures.
However, MacMaster ruled out a reduction in gas taxes, saying they provide much-needed revenue that is used to improve the province’s roads and highways.
Gasoline prices in the province are well over $2 a litre, while the inflation rate last month was 7.1%, according to Statistics Canada.
– with files from Amber Fryday, Graeme Benjamin and The Canadian Press
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