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Newcomers driving Atlantic Canadian rental demand

New immigrants are one of the key demographics driving demand for apartment rental in the Atlantic Provinces, says a recent study by real estate consultant, counsellor, and broker Turner, Drake and Partners Ltd.

“Immigrant inflows to the area fluctuated dramatically from 1991 to 2006, however in the last decade, trends have been rising,” says Chen Shi, a GIS consultant with Turner, Drake and Partners. “This can be attributed to new policy initiatives, for example the Provincial Nominee and Skilled Worker programs, aimed at attracting more immigrants to the region.” Shi immigrated from China in 2012.

The Atlantic Provinces expect to welcome 6,100 immigrants per year for the foreseeable future, the study shows. Like the other provinces in the region, Nova Scotia faces an aging population, and immigrants offer a new source of workers, renters, and potential homeowners to the province.

New immigrants occupied 28 per cent of Canadian rental units from 2000 to 2010 according to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Killam Properties property manager Amanda Beazley says she sees the direct impact of this increase in the building she manages in Fairview and Clayton Park.

“We have a diverse population in our buildings—people who have come through the Government-Assisted Refugee Program, as well as people who have come on their own for work or school,” she says.

Newcomers experience a number of challenges in the rental market. Beazley says the language barrier is a big one as it encompasses everything from understanding leases to reading signs.

When new tenants move into one of Beazley’s buildings, they sit down to read the lease and Residential Tenancies Act together to ensure that they understand their rights and responsibilities.

Technology, specifically the Google translate app, is a big help. “You can judge by the reaction of the person whether or not the translation is close,” says Beazley. “Some times you get that ‘Oh wow’ reaction and you have to try to say the same thing in a different way to get a better translation.”

Beazley says a number of her resident managers speak several languages, and residents are often ready to help a newcomer.

“The residents themselves are quite supportive of the community,” she says. “When there is a new family, a lot of times they’ll make friends within the building with someone who can assist and translate. It’s a real teamwork
approach.

FROM STUDENT TO PERMANENT RESIDENT

Chen Shi came to Halifax from China in 2012 to study for her environmental management master’s degree at Dalhousie University.

When she arrived, Shi discovered that Halifax looked much like her home city of Dalian in China’s Liaoning province.

“I always love a city with oceans,” she says. “It’s a big plus.”

Upon graduation, she started working as a GIS consultant with Turner, Drake and Partners Ltd.

Like many who immigrate to Halifax from abroad, Shi faced challenges. First off, there was the culture shock. Halifax is much smaller than Dalian, and she’d hoped for a much larger Chinese population to make her feel at home.

Her next challenge was finding an apartment. She recommends eclife.ca, a Halifax-based Chinese language rental site, for those who want to live near other Chinese immigrants.

Students, like Shi, who graduate from a Canadian college or university and have a job offer from a Nova Scotian employer can apply for permanent residency through the Nova Scotia Nominee Program’s Skilled Worker Stream.

Shi plans to stay in Halifax. “I want to try to challenge myself a little bit,” she says. She applies for her permanent residency status this summer.

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