Within the past year, the number of times I’ve stood in line at Superstore and openly wept is too high to count. That is because according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), Fredericton has a higher average grocery price than every single one of Canada’s 10 largest cities. Oftentimes, the difference is between 20 and 30 per cent.
As the extortion prices for groceries insinuate, Fredericton’s cost of living is disproportionately high.
The CPI states that you would need around $4,166 in Fredericton to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with $4,100 in Montreal, assuming you rent in both cities. Therefore, if you are renting, as most students do, it takes more money to exist in Fredericton than it does to exist in Canada’s second largest city.
When Fredericton is then compared to a city of its same size, the results are even more fiscally infuriating. Medicine Hat, Alberta has about the same population as Fredericton. Furthermore, because of its college, Medicine Hat also has a transient population, the city therefore having a large percentage of renters. Despite these similarities, however, a Fredericton renter would need around $4,155 to maintain the same standard of life that a Medicine Hat renter could maintain with $3,400.
Yet unlike Fredericton, Medicine Hat is experiencing a population boom. According to Statistics Canada, as of 2012 New Brunswick had the highest vacancy rate in the country. At 6.9 per cent, New Brunswick’s vacancy rate is a nearly two and a half times higher than the national average of 2.8 per cent.
In Alberta, however, the vacancy rate is only 2.0 per cent. In spite of this contrast, the CPI still claims that a one bedroom in downtown Medicine Hat is 0.6 per cent cheaper than one of the same size and location in Fredericton.
I took an economics course a couple years ago, but since my professor couldn’t introduce me to the guy from Rich Dad, Poor Dad, I dropped the class early on. Despite my short enrolment, I’m pretty sure I understand the principles of supply and demand. A lower vacancy rate means that landlords may charge more per unit. In New Brunswick, however, a higher vacancy rate means that landlords may charge even more and still take seven weeks to fix your doorbell.
It is not, however, that all property in New Brunswick is expensive. At the end of 2013, the Canadian Real Estate Association claimed that the national average price of a home was $391,085. Montreal’s average house price was $318,897; Alberta’s was $387, 737. In New Brunswick, the sale price was a mere $160,169.
In Vancouver, where rent is about two times higher than in Fredericton, the average price of a home is $800,176, which is five times higher than in New Brunswick.
The New Brunswick Apartment Owners Association (who, I assume, make up 98% of Fredericton’s monocled population) defend these extortionist prices by arguing that in New Brunswick homeowners pay a municipal tax, but if the building they own is a rental property, a provincial tax is also applied. Statistics Canada, however, using all their fancy numbers, points out that Atlantic Canada already has the lowest property taxes in the country, with Quebec having some of the highest. Statistics Canada, classic buzzkills.
In paying these exceptionally high rent prices, tenants do not even get exceptional service. Rent control is a device used by the government that strives to meet the financial needs of both tenants and landlords; it is a nuanced negotiation between government and landowners, often exceedingly intricate in nature.
The Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation sums up New Brunswick’s enactment of this complex process by stating, “There are no rent controls in New Brunswick.” That’s right tenants, it is perfectly legal for your landlord to increase your rent in the middle of your lease.
The only unique service that New Brunswick renters receive is access to that bureaucratic monolith the Office of the Rentalsman, an office entirely dedicated to offering you as much of the crappy hold music that you could ever want.
Isn’t this what a government is for? Shouldn’t both our municipal and provincial governments be protecting students, one of the few demographics still moving to New Brunswick, rather than gouging them? Homelessness should not be a financially savvy move.
While I have never read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, I would venture to say that it is probably the best book ever written. One out of the many, many things that scanning its back cover taught me was that nothing is free. The lesson was right down at the bottom, beside the barcode: pay $16.99 and understand why the poor shouldn’t be allowed to breed (that’s what the book’s about, right?). By demanding that renters pay exorbitant rates, the province and city should provide renters with exorbitant protection.