The Affordability Crisis

We’re all noticing the increase in housing costs, grocery prices, fuel and everyday goods and services. If you’re fortunate enough to be a part of the middle or upper class, you’ve likely found ways to change behaviours and practices to stretch your dollars further. But if you’re one of the thousands of Nova Scotians living in poverty, and thousands more just getting by on a low income, less options are available to navigate the affordability crisis.

In Halifax, an estimated 8.3% of people live in poverty (2020). Single people make up the largest group of people living in poverty in Nova Scotia. They also have the lowest levels of income supports. Additionally, nearly 1 in 4 children lives in poverty in Nova Scotia. Most of these people were already struggling to get by before inflation pushed prices up.

What does this mean for people in our community?

Additional government supports helped people during the height of the pandemic. As prices climbed and affordable housing became more scarce, people have struggled to get to same point as before. More and more, people are relying on impact organizations to help fill the gap between their inadequate income and their basic needs. They’re looking for grocery store gift cards, menstrual and hygiene products, and financial support to pay for power arrears or a damage deposit.

When you’re living on a low income and costs rise, there’s no wiggle room. In many cases, there’s no way to bring in additional income. There’s no way to further stretch budgets. Folks living on a low income are unable to pick a cheaper phone plan or cut down on subscriptions to save money. Often, the food budget is the only place to take from.

The food budget. Where we’ve seen the costs rise over 10% in the last year, making the spending power of those on a fixed income shrink. When making cuts to their food budget, people give up meat, fresh fruit and vegetables, and yogurt to get by. When that’s not enough, they cut their milk with water so it can last longer.  Crackers become a meal. Nutrition is second to filling bellies.

A lack of choice

Poverty has robbed our most vulnerable residents of choice. And, it seems to be getting worse. People have lost choice in where to live, what to eat, and who they can afford to see. In a time when jobs are more plentiful, they’re struggling to afford to drive to work. They risk becoming socially isolated because they can’t afford to visit with family and friends nearby or participate in community activities. Poverty is already extremely lonely, but these increased costs add more barriers to connection with others and crucial resources.

While investments in the social sector are welcome and one-time cash interventions help, they don’t change the depth of poverty people are experiencing. Real, life-changing choice can only happen when people have what they need to meet their basic needs. When they have an affordable and adequate roof over their head, and enough money to purchase groceries, medication, and clothing. When they have sufficient transportation and can pay for utilities.

United Way Halifax believes in a community where everyone feels like they belong, and has what they need. We also believe it’s possible, if we all work together.