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Big Trouble in Little Boomtown

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There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that St. John’s is really having its moment. Things are on the upswing like never before, there’s unprecedented growth. The province has gone from ‘have-not’ to ‘have’ practically overnight, with the rapid expansion of offshore oil projects and the possible Muskrat Falls energy project on the horizon. Yet for all the apparent prosperity, there is plenty of hardship, not everyone is reaping the benefits of our booming economy. It’s not as light hearted and brightly coloured as it’s portrayed on the almighty “Republic of Doyle”.

There is a major housing shortage province wide, particularly in the Northeast Avalon. While there are homes being built and many more already for sale, very little of these units fall into the affordable housing range. There is also a low vacancy rate for rental units in the St. John’s area and what is for rent is sometimes barely liveable or barely affordable. Vendors are pandering to the exclusive ‘Executive’ market with accommodations that are upscale and all inclusive, and usually start at $2000 a month. Condos are also being built hand over fist when rental units are what are sorely needed.

People in lower income brackets, barely making a living wage at times, are very much being left behind and in some case forced from what meager apartment they could afford so it can be renovated or demolished for more desirable development. Don’t get me wrong, development is good in some regards, but at the cost of low income citizens, it’s disrespectful and hardly fair. Add to that the fact that there are skyrocketing rents, with no rent controls in place and you can see what a bind it can put people in. On top of rent, there are utilities and food bills, and both are not getting any cheaper. Food banks are seeing more and more traffic and are repeatedly going to the media, pleading for more donations.

There thankfully are a number of programs and housing projects on the go in the St.John’s metro area, but there is much more that can be done. Setting rent controls on the municipal level would be a great start, it is something the city should seriously consider taking on, or perhaps the province. Also on the provincial level it is certainly time to look at regulating the costs of utilities and food. On a personal level people really need to think of others and donate food and items more frequently. More awareness on the issue on all fronts is key, not just at certain times of the year, like Christmas or during awareness weeks. Anyone could slip beneath the poverty line pretty quickly if their circumstances change, and many of us have been there in the past. Never forget where you have come from or that there are others who don’t have it as good at you. St. John’s has so much potential, but it is important to remember ALL of its people, not just those of certain means.

By: Vanessa Wade

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