Nova Scotia’s government spent $1.1 million on an advertising campaign recruiting remote workers from across Canada to move to the province.
The online campaign tugged at the heartstrings of many Nova Scotians who moved away from the province for work and began to seriously consider returning due to pandemic-caused uncertainties.
“We started thinking, ‘What if this all happens again? What if this happens again in 10 years and our parents are 10 years older?'” said Sarah Romkey, a Nova Scotian who moved home during the pandemic after 15 years in Ontario.
Romkey says another encouraging part of the Work From Nova Scotia campaign was the encouragement for remote working Canadians to take advantage of Nova Scotia’s “affordability.”
The campaign states that “Nova Scotia is among the most affordable places to live in Canada.”
Romkey isn’t eligible to vote in this upcoming provincial election because she hasn’t been a Nova Scotia resident for six months but says she counts her family as very fortunate to be able to settle into their South Shore home.
She says family members were able to view homes on their behalf because pandemic restrictions prevented them from travelling to the province ahead of their closing date.
Romkey says with housing market prices ballooning in Nova Scotia and across Canada, she expresses gratitude for her family being able to afford to relocate.
“We weren’t one of those families that ended up in a bidding war or anything like that. So, again, lucky that worked out for us but I do hear out and about in the community and Facebook groups and stuff that people are having trouble finding a place to live,” she says.
Romkey says those housing troubles range from seasonal workers to families in need of permanent housing or rental accommodations in more rural communities.
According to provincial data, Nova Scotia has seen a decrease in the number of people moving away from the province and an increase in migrants coming from other provinces.
The longstanding pull Nova Scotians traditionally followed to work in the oil and gas industry in Western Canada has declined by half of what it had been in 2013 and 2014.
According to One Nova Scotia, 2,705 people moved to Nova Scotia from other provinces between July 2019 and 2020, overshooting the annual interprovincial target of 1,000 people for the fourth consecutive year.
“These young people are going to really struggle to try to find a property to live on if they want to settle down,” Murray Zinck said, a lifelong South Shore resident.
Zinck is referring to the growing number of younger Nova Scotians who now have to contend with soaring housing and rental prices if they want to live and work in their home province.
“Prices of these houses along here, they’ve doubled in some cases,” Zinck said, pointing to the outskirts of Lunenburg County.
The Nova Scotia Association of REALTORS (NSAR) says housing stock hit an all-time low during the early days of the pandemic with the amount of available inventory sitting at a 10th of what it had been in previous years.
The vice-president of NSAR, Matthew Dauphine, says the low stock, a surge in demand for buying homes and unique pandemic challenges, like a sharp increase in building supply costs, were all elements of a perfect storm that led to skyrocketing home prices.
“We advertised that our province is a great place to be and people heard that message and they’ve decided to come here but now we’re facing another issue, which is where does everyone live?” said Dauphine.
Liberal Party Leader Iain Rankin said Nova Scotia is “on track to hit a million people,” and has championed population growth as key to a stronger workforce.
“More health-care workers, more teachers,” said Rankin.
But he also acknowledged that young people are going to struggle to try to find a property if they want to settle down. That is why he said housing is on the Liberals’ radar.
“We’ve accepted the housing recommendations from an independent commission that has broad representation,” said Rankin.
On the other hand, the NDP Leader Gary Burrill is campaigning on “immediate, permanent rent control,” while the leader of the Progressive Conservatives Tim Houston says the PCs are pro-population and that “the solutions we put forward, we understand the challenges.”