The Heartbreaking Consequences of Nova Scotia's Real Estate Boom

Christina Provost had finally found a place to call home in Prospect, N.S. But just a month ago, her landlord dropped a bombshell - the house was being sold. Provost and her three children were...

Christina Provost had finally found a place to call home in Prospect, N.S. But just a month ago, her landlord dropped a bombshell - the house was being sold. Provost and her three children were forced to find a new place to live by July 1. Devastated and with no options, Provost's story is just one of many emerging from Nova Scotia's housing crisis.

A Growing Issue for Renters

The plight of renters in Nova Scotia is becoming increasingly dire. Landlords across the province are selling their homes and small rental units, leaving many tenants with nowhere to go. The current housing crisis has created a situation where even middle-class individuals - who don't qualify for subsidized housing but can't secure a mortgage - are being left without options.

Hannah Wood, chair of the Halifax chapter of ACORN Nova Scotia, an organization advocating for low-income tenants and workers, has witnessed a sharp rise in tenants facing eviction due to property sales. Wood highlights the challenge faced by families and individuals searching for affordable rentals, as landlords are primarily selling homes rather than rental buildings.

The Halifax Regional Municipality has a vacancy rate of just 1.9 percent, one of the lowest in the country. With 4,000 people on the waitlist for public housing and insufficient construction of new units, the number of people being displaced continues to grow.

The Real Estate Boom

The surge in demand for housing coincides with a booming real estate market in Nova Scotia. According to data compiled by the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors, a record-breaking 1,577 units were sold in the province last month, representing a staggering increase of over 65 percent compared to March 2020. The average selling price of homes also rose by more than 26 percent.

For landlords, selling properties has become a more profitable venture than renting them out. Some have opted for alternative avenues like Airbnb or house flipping, while others are selling to recoup costs incurred through damages and regular maintenance. Speaking to CBC, several landlords across the province echoed similar sentiments, stating that the current housing market presented an opportunity to recover previous losses.

The Two-Percent Rent Cap Challenge

To address the housing crisis, a two-percent rent cap was introduced in November 2020. While intended to mitigate the situation, small landlords argue that rising building supply costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic make it difficult to turn a profit. For landlords like Paul Finnemore, whose business model centers around purchasing and renovating run-down rentals, a two-percent cap falls short, failing to cover inflation rates and necessary expenses such as mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance, and maintenance.

Desperate Times for Renters

While some fortunate renters like Christina Provost managed to secure new accommodations, countless others continue to face uncertainty. Chris Ramsay, who received a two-month eviction notice, highlights the challenges of finding housing as a parent. Despite laws prohibiting discrimination against families with children, the reality is that many landlords remain unresponsive to inquiries, and hundreds of people apply for each available rental.

Ramsay's desperation led him to apply for a rental far from his current location, potentially impacting his ability to see his eldest daughter. Faced with the looming threat of homelessness, Ramsay contemplates unconventional living arrangements, from camping in a friend's backyard to seeking refuge in fully-booked motels.

The stories of Provost, Ramsay, and countless others serve as a haunting reminder of the dire consequences of Nova Scotia's real estate boom. As demand soars and affordable options diminish, the housing crisis deepens, shaking the lives of families and individuals who call this province home.

Images: ACORN's Halifax peninsula chapter advocates for low-income tenants and workers. ACORN's Halifax peninsula chapter advocates for low-income tenants and workers.

Paul Finnemore stands in front of one of his rental properties in Kentville. Paul Finnemore stands in front of one of his rental properties in Kentville.

Finnemore cleaned up and renovated this property in hopes of renting it out. Finnemore cleaned up and renovated this property in hopes of renting it out.

Chris Ramsay and his two-year-old daughter, who are racing to find a new place to live before the two-month eviction notice is up. Chris Ramsay and his two-year-old daughter, who are racing to find a new place to live before the two-month eviction notice is up.

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