This Halifax woman makes about $50,000 a year – but still can’t find a home

This Halifax woman makes about $50,000 a year – but still can’t find a home

Rae-Leigh MacInnes is tired of not having a place to call home.

The 44-year-old is a registered massage therapist and earns about $50,000 a year, but has been homeless for months as she has been unable to secure permanent housing.

“I keep trying, every day,” MacInnes told Motorcycle accident toronto today.

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Most of her furniture and belongings are put away. She’s able to rent a storage unit, but not a home.

For now, MacInnes has been couch-surfing and staying with friends, but she recognizes that isn’t sustainable.

If she can’t find a home, she worries about what this means for others – those on lower incomes, and who might not have friends to stay with.

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“There’s so many people out there that do make less money, and they deserve the same thing,” she said. “They deserve to have a home too, that they feel safe in.”

‘You feel defeated’

MacInnes, who also attends university remotely, said she spends hours every day scouring Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji for apartments. She estimates she inquires about approximately 30 per day.

“This is a full-time job in itself,” she said.

Just getting to the application stage is rare, said MacInnes, as units often get scooped up by someone else within minutes or hours of being posted online.

“When you’re doing that daily, it just becomes very defeating. You feel defeated. How am I going to find a place?” she said.

“I’m trying my best, it’s not from a lack of trying. I’ve contacted everyone on Kijiji, everyone on Facebook Marketplace, and I’m staying on top of these things, but it’s taking up all my time. It’s taking (away) from my studies.”

Rae-Leigh MacInnes is trying to find a permanent home, but says the process is ‘defeating.’.

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MacInnes said she ended up in her situation “very quickly and unexpectedly.” About a year ago, she lived in a long-term rental in the city with her son. She moved to the Annapolis Valley last summer to pursue a work opportunity, and her son brought in a roommate.

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The opportunity didn’t work out, and due to a lack of work in the valley, she came back to the city a couple months later. MacInnes couldn’t return to her old apartment because the space was taken by her son’s roommate.

That’s when the hunt began, she said.

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“It was incredibly hard to find anything. The minute I would message someone, they would tell me, ‘Well, I’ve got like 10 people coming to look at this unit already,’” said MacInnes.

“And that’s if they responded at all.”

MacInnes remembers a time — “it wasn’t that long ago” — when it was tenants, not units, that were in demand. Housing was cheaper, and she recalled some rental companies even offering incentives to new tenants to draw them in.

Now, it’s completely different. Just one room can cost upwards of $1,000, and many of the available apartments within her budget ($1,400 to $1,500, but “ideally” lower) are short-term rentals of only a few months.

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MacInnes is focusing her search on long-term rentals, as moving is expensive and the thought of having to pack up and change locations every few months is too much to bear, especially in the city’s tight rental market.

All she wants is a place where she can live and feel comfortable with her housing situation.

“We are becoming so complacent with it being OK to say, ‘I’ll settle for this,’ rather than, ‘I deserve to be in a home I feel safe and comfortable in,’” said MacInnes.

“I don’t think anyone feels safe anywhere.”

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia protesters call for affordable housing, end to fixed-term lease loophole'

Nova Scotia protesters call for affordable housing, end to fixed-term lease loophole

After coming back from the valley, MacInnes was able to find a short-term rental for four months. While living there, she continued her search for a place to live.

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She widened the parameters of her search and found a place she could afford in Truro, where she lived for a couple of months.

But another blow came when MacInnes lost her car after hitting a deer on the highway. With no transportation, and a lack of work in Truro, MacInnes was forced to once again return to Halifax in the winter.

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Months later, she still hasn’t found a home, despite having a good job and rental history.

“Although I have lots of work – there’s no shortage of work – there’s nowhere to live,” she said.

The uncertainty of her housing situation is taking a toll on her health and wellbeing. MacInnes is calling for more housing to be built, and fast.

“I know there’s been some progress with housing being built … but that’s not enough. Not even close to being enough,” she said.

‘All income levels’ impacted by housing crisis

In a statement on behalf of the provincial government, Department of Housing spokesperson Heather Fairbairn said: “It is always very concerning whenever we hear of circumstances where people may be struggling to secure housing.”

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“The reality is, the housing crisis impacts people of all income levels,” the statement said. “There is a need for more housing of all types in Nova Scotia. That is why government is working together with our partners on a variety of solutions.”

Fairbairn said over the last few months, the province has invested more than $80 million in “almost every region of the province to create more housing options.”

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This includes modular housing options for health-care and skilled workers, rapid housing initiatives, student housing, and temporary housing for people experiencing homelessness.

She said the province is also providing funding to preserve, modernize and improve existing affordable housing and public housing, and to grow the community and non-profit housing sector.

However, Housing Minister John Lohr said at the legislature earlier this month that the province does not intend to build more public housing, instead focusing on better managing the current public housing stock. Advocates have long been calling for the public housing stock to be increased.

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“We know it will take time for new housing to be built,” Fairbairn’s statement said. “In the meantime, there are supports available for those who may be struggling. Rent supplements may be an option for those eligible applicants who may be in severe housing need.”

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This rent supplement is only eligible for people who spend at least 50 per cent of their income on housing. It was quietly changed earlier this year, effectively reducing eligibility, as it used to require that applicants spend 30 per cent or more of their income on housing.

Fairbairn also said people without housing can reach out to the Shelter Diversion Support Program to be connected to available resources, such as housing support workers. The number for the program is 902-431-7848.

‘It’s disheartening’

MacInnes knows she’s not alone. She said she knows a couple making $90,000 between the two of them, who are about to live in their car due to a lack of housing options.

“It’s disheartening,” she said. “I hate to see it. It’s scary how many people there are like me out there.”

Moving out of Nova Scotia isn’t an option for her, both due to the cost of moving, and the potential cost of becoming regulated to work in another province.

Though she doesn’t plan to move away just yet, MacInnes said she can’t help but feel “pushed out” from the province where she grew up, raised a family, and worked for decades.

“I love Nova Scotia. I’ve always been proud of where I’m from,” she said.

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“I’ve lived my whole life here, I’ve worked my whole life here, and I’m being pushed out of this province because we’re not able to take care of each other here.”