Housing crunch worsens

Yes, Halifax, we have a housing crisis

We asked Neil Lovitt, the city’s expert in real-estate economics, for the most telling statistics on the red-hot rental and home-buying markets. 

“Are things as bad as they seem for renters/buyers?” says the vice-president of planning and economic intelligence with real-estate consultancy Turner Drake & Partners Ltd. “Yes.” 

COVID-19 gave renters a tiny break by prompting Nova Scotia to implement emergency rent controls and putting a damper on the usual influx of international students, migration from other provinces, and immigration. But the rental market’s been tight since about 2017. “Rent control won’t fix a lack of available units at any price,” Lovitt says. 

Home-buying was already heating up in 2019. The pandemic set the market ablaze. “It is remarkably more expensive now and continues to get worse for buyers,” says Lovitt. 

Contrary to popular belief, the growth story during the pandemic is not all about people flooding in from Ontario, British Columbia, and other provinces to flee COVID and live a simpler life. The greater impact is the huge decline in people moving from Nova Scotia to other provinces, such as Alberta for oil patch jobs. 

“The pandemic seemed to drive a burst of migration from other provinces early in 2020,” says Lovitt. “But for the year overall, fewer people arrived compared to 2019, and 2021 isn’t off to a strong start.” Things will likely pick up as the province opens up, he says. And, of course, some people are buying before they even set foot in the province. 

* Data sources: Turner Drake, CMHC, StatsCan, Nova Scotia Association of Realtors, Infosparks 

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