A growing city with increasing unaffordability: How Halifax’s cost of living ‘affects everyone’

In recent years, the cost of housing, food and more recently fuel has skyrocketed.

However, there hasn’t been a similar increase in wages – and now even people earning what is known as a “living wage” in Halifax are struggling.

The rise cost of living in the capital of Nova Scotia, once known for its relative affordability, is quickly overtaking its residents.

“It’s affecting everyone right now,” said Hailie Tattrie, a graduate student and organizer of the activist group Justice for Workers.

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“There are people who are earning minimum wage and they are struggling, so obviously they are the hardest hit by this rising cost of living and stagnant wages.

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“But we’re seeing more and more people who would earn what we think is a decent wage … they’re struggling too.”

Justice for Workers is a new name for an old movement.

The Fight for $15 and Fairness movement was recently renamed after talks arose that they have been fighting for a $15 minimum wage for so long that it is no longer enough to keep up with the rising cost of living .

Justice for Workers’ Hailie Tattrie says wages have not kept pace with the cost of living and many people are struggling.

Submitted by Hailie Tattrie

Nova Scotia plans to raise its minimum wage to $15 by 2024. Tattrie said that was far from enough.

“It’s two years away, and by then God knows how expensive housing, food, gas prices are going to be,” she said.

“($15) isn’t enough now, and it certainly won’t be enough in 2024.”

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The Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives estimates that Living wage in Halifax to $22.05. The living wage is what a person would have to earn to support their family and all basic needs, taking into account the current cost of goods and housing.

Tattrie said she’s fortunate to be earning more than a living wage, but still struggles to make ends meet at times.

“Wages do not correspond to the rising cost of living. Not even close. I don’t know how they expect people to survive,” she said.

“I can’t see how someone earning minimum wage could make that work.”

“When people are pushed financially, they are worse off”

Lars Osberg, an economics professor at Dalhousie University, said the rising cost of living is being particularly tough on those on low and fixed incomes – but those on multiple income brackets are struggling to keep up.

“People looking for rent, food and fuel are looking at expenses they are finding difficult to avoid, and those costs are rising,” he said.

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These challenges aren’t just limited to Halifax. factors like that COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have impacted the cost of goods and services worldwide.

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Overall, Osberg said, Canada is doing better than other, poorer countries, but many people are still struggling to keep up with the cost of living.

One of the most important issues is housing. Osberg said while housing costs have been rising across the country, so has Halifax one of the lowest rental vacancies.

“Not that it’s great in other parts of the country,” he admitted, “but it’s worse here than many other places.”

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He said that a population under economic stress leads to a “whole range of social problems” – not only in the economic sense, but also in the personal and family sense.

“I don’t like using the word ‘business’ in a sense because it’s really about people,” he said. “And when people are pushed financially, they get worse off.”

When discussing the cost of living, Osberg said people often focus on the prices of the things they buy, rather than the income that will allow them to buy those things.

The crux of the problem lies in inadequate incomes, he said: Most of the money made goes to those at the top of the income distribution spectrum, while “barely” goes to those in the middle and at the bottom.

“If your income is growing faster than the cost of living, then everything is fine, right?” he said. “So the real problem is income distribution.”

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Tattri agreed.

“It’s not like the money just goes away and vanishes,” she said of why many people struggle to make ends meet.

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“Our money is sort of stolen from us under this capitalist system — how we see these CEOs, these billionaires making huge sums of money while the rest of us struggle.”

She said it can be easy for people to feel fear and despair about their economic situation and encouraged people to use those emotions by joining groups like Workers for Justice and campaigning for better working conditions.

“Take that anger, take that sadness, all those feelings that you’re feeling — redirect them into action,” she said.

“It’s time to do it now. People are frustrated, so get involved.”

growing pains

In an interview on Tuesday, Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said he was concerned about the rising cost of living in the city and said he recognized the “pressures people are facing”.

“On the positive side,” he said, “the economy is doing well, jobs are at an all-time high — but that’s not helping people who are struggling to get by.”

Savage noted that Halifax is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. It is also the capital of one of the fastest growing provinces: in the last five years the province’s population has grown by five percent to 969,383 inhabitants.

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That growth has led to more businesses opening and more jobs being created, he said. But there are still growing pains.

“We want to grow as a city,” he said.

“We also want to address the challenges of growth – which are better than the challenges of no growth – but they create challenges and we need to be aware of them.”

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage says the city’s growth is a good thing but acknowledges it has created some challenges.

In terms of addressing those challenges, he said Halifax has been working toward this “for a long time.” The city center plan should help easier to build homes and “drives affordability through the process,” Savage said.

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He also said the city is taking “unprecedented” action to build emergency shelters and has given land to nonprofit organizations. Transit is also free for eligible Income Support customers.

“So we’re trying to make the things that we have control over more affordable for people who are really struggling,” he said, adding the city will release an economic strategy “soon” that will focus on inclusive and would focus on sustainable growth.

“Considering the importance of both the environment and the fact that we need to create more opportunities for more people, and not just those who are already doing well,” Savage said.

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On the wage issue, he said he encourages local businesses to increase wages “taking into account that many businesses have also been affected by the pandemic.”

“I certainly encourage people, but we have companies that in some cases just carry on like this. They cannot be expected to shoulder the full burden of recovery,” he said.

Savage said despite the challenges of the past two years, he believes 2022 will be a “good year” for the city — particularly with the return of tourism and the economic benefits it will bring.

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“My hope is that in a growing city at a time when it is difficult for all cities in Canada, everyone can earn the income they need to survive,” Savage said.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

https://globalnews.ca/news/8683471/halifax-growing-city-affordability-cost-living/ A growing city with increasing unaffordability: How Halifax’s cost of living ‘affects everyone’

Brian Lowry

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