Between a housing crisis and Coronavirus, it has not been a good time for youth trying to live independently in Canada something I would like to do myself soon. While I would like to remain in Vancouver which I have lived in my entire life, the high price of housing in the Lower Mainland may make that an impossibility. And so, I thought about alternatives in Canada with Halifax ending up at the top. The aspects of Halifax that drew me to it were its size which I believed would still provide a cosmopolitan setting and active culture and the cost of living which I believed would be much less in Atlantic Canada than it would be in Vancouver.
Through Pivot I gained insight into how life is for youth in Halifax and how it really is like with the two major aspects that I was searching for. The final aspect was what influence my initial decision the most and it also was what surprised me the most when I saw the data. In many of the interviews, Halifax was described as expensive to live in with many interviewees talking about how rent has just gotten worse during COVID-19 and how hard it is for people outside of the city to move in. 29% of participants rated the cost of living in Halifax as extremely poor while only 16% of Vancouverites rated their city as extremely poor in the same category.
Their opinions are backed up by the CBC in which some people have seen their rents go up by as much as 90% and Halifax has a record vacancy rate of 1%. However, something that I noticed which may be relevant to how expensive it is for youth to live in Halifax and Vancouver was that in Halifax, 60% of survey takers rented with others while in Vancouver 70% of respondents lived with family. Using the index to compare the price of housing in the two cities adds to this though as Vancouver has an average cost of $8,783 per square metre while Halifax has a cost of $4,964 per square metre. This may mean that despite the survey responses Halifax may still be cheaper as Vancouverites who live with their family may rate the cost of living in their city as better because they are not paying rent while Haligonians may rate theirs as lower since they are paying rent.
“Everything is outrageously expensive. For example, housing is ridiculous, Halifax has Toronto prices for Halifax, like a one-bedroom apartment should not be $1400 in Halifax. And there’s a lot of places with all these new condos coming up, they’re so expensive. People who don’t make a lot of money cannot afford to live.”
– Interviewee from Halifax speaking about cost of living in the city.
The cosmopolitan aspect of the city was more positive though. Arts and culture and diversity and inclusion are (for me at least) intertwined in creating a cosmopolitan city. I believe that Vancouver is successful in this aspect though it has been suffering from gentrification. In Halifax, one interviewee described the culture as making it a “city that belongs to the people rather than just a city that’s there for people to live in.” Despite this though Halifax was also described as a “very colonized city” in which other cultures and especially indigenous culture were underrepresented especially in comparison to Vancouver.
“I went to Vancouver, literally landed and the first thing I saw was like an indigenous painting and I walked around and saw more like totem poles and paintings and so it definitely is more kind of like a presence.”
– Interviewee from Halifax talking about Indigenous representation.
As a comparison alone Halifax and Vancouver both have similar strengths and weaknesses however while Halifax is slightly cheaper, Vancouver is more inclusive in its culture. When also considering the benefits of moving to Halifax, even if there was not a pandemic, I must choose to remain in Vancouver, where I have lived all my life.
Simon Fraser University
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