Nfld. & Labrador·Weekend Briefing

Guess who can't afford to rent? Why the city is making the housing crunch personal

Would you think differently of the housing problem if you knew who it affected the most? Probably, writes John Gushue.
Barbers and people who work in hair salons keep us looking sharp, but they fall below the affordability threshold for most housing. (Shutterstock)

Have you heard the one about the barber, the hairdresser and the housekeeper who walked into a one-bedroom apartment? 

They couldn't afford it. 

This is no punchline, by the way, and it's no joke.

It's a dead serious problem, and it speaks to a series of gaping holes in the housing market on the northeast Avalon.  

The City of St. John's released its latest affordable housing strategy a week or so ago. It's filled with phrases like "intergovernmental context," but please don't let your eyes glaze over. It also has some revealing things. 

Like our friends, the barber, the hairdresser and the housekeeper. 

These are three of the professions that the city's report lists as being unable to rent a one-bedroom apartment on their own income. Others include early childhood educators and home support workers. 

The threshold for that is an annual income of $31,720. The city's survey found that the average monthly rental cost of a one-bedroom apartment is $793. The city uses a common definition of affordability: that no more than 30 per cent of income go to housing costs, which include things like utilities.  

As you move around the rental and housing market, you meet other people who get squeezed out. 

Not able to afford — on their own, anyway — the $956 average monthly cost of a two-bedroom apartment? Restaurant managers, airline ticket agents, graphic illustrators, according to city data. 

The City of St. John's is renewing its efforts to make more housing affordable to lower-income earners. (CBC)

Buying a house, even in a market that has notably softened in the last few years, is out of range for many single-income earners. The list may surprise you, as it includes teachers, firefighters and electricians, who earn a decent dollar —  but not enough to meet the earning requirement. 

To qualify for a mortgage for an average MLS listing in 2017, you would need an income of $88,450. 

Granted, many households are based on two incomes. 

That includes apartments, where roommates are a financial necessity as much as they're there for companionship. 

"Affordable housing" is not just a bland phrase. It involves real people, on every street, in most businesses and offices.

It's a problem that is deeply personal.  

The wheels of justice …

… grind fine, but slow. 

Like, reeeaaaal slow. 

A decision filed this week in the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court of Appeal caught our attention, because it's a) about an unusual object and b) had such a lengthy backstory. 

Fishery Products International was caught up in a court fight over a missing purse seine. (CBC)

It involved Fishery Products International (remember them?), a father-and-son fishing duo named Richard Thomas Rose and Lorne Rose, and a big ol' fishing net that went missing. 

What's most curious about the decision is that the story dates back to … 1994. 

That's right, 1994. The year that Ross met Rachel. That's when the Roses bought a purse seine and FPI agreed to store it at the fish plant it was then still running in Port Union. 

Four years later, the seine was moved to the FPI plant in Burin. And then … it got lost. Somewhere along the line, the thing got misplaced. 

This is not like your wallet, say, or a pair of glasses (the two objects I always seem to be looking for). You'd have to really work at misplacing this purse seine. The court recorded that its length is more than a third of a kilometre, and that a flatbed truck was needed to move it. 

Thus, the seine was valuable enough to go to court. Long story short: FPI lost its appeal that the Roses had waited too long to go to court. 

The seine? Oh, that's still missing. If you see it, there's a father and son (and probably a few judges) who'd love to see it. 

Quote of the week

"I've had some pretty special moments in my career as far as fan interactions, but this is probably the craziest." 

That's Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman, who was making a quick stop in St. John's and decided to check out the legendary (and foggy) view from Signal Hill, and was astonished to see superfan Patrick Dove waiting for him.

Fan Patrick Dove wore a special jersey to greet Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman this week on Signal Hill. (Marcus Stroman/Twitter)

And — we love this detail — Dove (who evidently pays very close attention to Stroman's Twitter account, as he was able to change his own plans for the day after reading one tweet) was wearing a Stroman jersey. Not a Jays jersey, but rather one from his college team. 

Now, that's fandom. Slow clap for Mr. Dove on that one. 

Got time to read? We have a whack of suggestions

Here are some of the things we've published over the last week that you may have missed, or might want to revisit. 

One of our most-shared articles was an essay that Vickie Morgan (above) wrote about dealing with the loss of her infant son Joe

A bombshell at the Muskrat Falls inquiry

A week later, tongues are still wagging about Anthony Germain's column on a controversial hiring at The Rooms. We can add this: all of the questions that Anthony posed still remain unanswered. 

Love. Travel. Paintball

Second chances and cowboy hats: welcome back, Rod Jackson. 

Everyone in Corner Brook called him "Mr. Fred." Remembering jeweler (his canes were bedazzled!) Fred Alteen

The Carbonear man who knows he looks more like someone who would carry out your groceries than a drug user. 

If you're going to learn to fly anywhere in the world, come to the never-boring skies (and weather) of Gander. 

We launched  a new feature this week: The Lowdown. Jen White and Rob Antle of our investigative unit will be bringing you explainers on issues of the day; the first was timely, about driving home from the store with your now-legal weed. Also, check out Jen's video below. 

CBC Investigates gets the details from RCMP Cpl. Jolene Garland about how to safely and legally carry cannabis in your car in Newfoundland and Labrador. 1:59

Something red for December 

Red colours seem to pop more at this time of year; maybe it's the season, but it's the white backdrop. Here is one of our favourite photos, which we posted to our Instagram feed

You can see lots more wonderful things in our weekly gallery, which is below. 

We love to receive photos from across Newfoundland and Labrador. To submit, email to nlphotos@cbc.ca; please tell us who you are, and please provide a full caption for the photo. 

That's it for the briefing this week. Enjoy your weekend! 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

John Gushue

CBC News

John Gushue is the digital senior producer with CBC News in St. John's.

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