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Alberta ACORN’s Open Letter to the Canadian Infrastructure Bank - ACORN Canada

Alberta ACORN’s Open Letter to the Canadian Infrastructure Bank

Posted August 1, 2023

ACORN Canada
715B Danforth Ave
Toronto, ON
M4J 1L2

Aug 2nd, 2023

Ehren Cory
Canada Infrastructure Bank
150 King Street West
P.O. Box 15
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M5H 1J9

Dear Mr Cory,

We are writing to express concern and to request a meeting about your $120,000,000 energy retrofit investment agreement with Avenue Living announced in June of 2022. Members of the ACORN-Eco-Tenant Union are receiving massive rent increases in what are very likely the same Avenue Living buildings, and this is not just unfair to tenants but likely undermines the CIB’s own goals of CO2 reduction.

We are confident that you will take this matter seriously and meet with us to discuss ways CIB and the Ministry of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities can maximize the benefits for all Canadians when entering into funding agreements with large rental property owners. ACORN is an organisation that is highly effective at getting public attention, and the issues detailed in this letter are, from our perspective, particularly egregious.

Here is some background: ACORN works in partnership with Alberta Eco-Trust, The Atmospheric Fund (TAF), Ottawa Climate Action Fund, Efficiency Canada, to advocate for maximized co-benefits of energy retrofits in Canada’s market rental apartment buildings. We are a growing stakeholder in the field of energy retrofits in apartments and are receiving significant funding from Low Carbon Cities Canada partners to ensure that tenants have voice and power in policy and program development around energy retrofits in Canada’s market rental housing buildings. You can learn more about this in a report that TAF funded ACORN Canada’s research department to develop.

A core of these partnerships is to develop Eco-Tenant-Unions in Calgary apartment buildings. The most successful we have been in this early work is in the Wyldewood Estates apartment complex in Calgary owned by Avenue Living. We have deep and extensive membership in the complex – exactly what we and our partners had hoped for.

The issue in the building that is driving the fast growth of the tenant union is massive rent increases – upwards of $500 for low-to-moderate income tenants. With no rent controls in Alberta, and little to no security of tenure it is an incredibly precarious situation for tenants.

All of this is why it came as such a surprise when we discovered that Avenue Living and CIB had entered into such a large funding agreement to retrofit 95% of their apartment portfolio. The tenants in the Avenue Living complexes are hard working taxpayers who are seeing their government give millions of dollars to the same landlord that is actively making their housing unaffordable. It’s incredibly problematic.

ACORN is demanding that CIB use your significant influence to have Avenue Living:

• Drop the massive rent increases to all tenants living in buildings that are receiving CIB funding.
• Retroactively reimburse tenants who had massive rent increases in the last year.
• Ensure moving forward all tenants are offered periodic leases that secure their affordable housing long term.

We also ask you to use your influence to have Avenue Living become a model landlord in maximizing co-benefits during apartment retrofits. This would include things like working with ACORN leaders in its buildings to ensure that tenants can participate and help inform the retrofits or making sure that tenants are treated above the legal standards set by the Alberta government, which are the lowest in the country.

CIB needs to use this funding as leverage to ensure that Canada’s affordable housing is preserved and secured. This is not just a vital goal in and of itself, but research shows that CO2 reduction programs are more effective when tenants are active partners.

Avenue Living is a highly profitable company that is making significant profits from owning buildings that low-to-moderate income Canadians depend on for housing. We believe that Avenue Living has a civic duty to provide housing in an ethical way that does not give rent increases and displaces tenants with nowhere else to go.

CIB has the power when making funding agreements to ensure that the civic duty to house low-to-moderate income tenants ethically happens. Efficiency Canada recently released a report (Energy Efficiency in Rental Housing) that lays out how that can be done by including things like affordable housing covenants into the agreements. Alberta Eco-Trust is funding Calgary ACORN to take that a step further by enabling tenants to be involved in the agreements to ensure that everyone is heard and understood before the agreements take place.

ACORN is a membership-based organization of low-to-moderate-income people, mainly tenants. Starting in Toronto in 2004, ACORN now has offices and active membership bases across Metro Vancouver, Calgary, London, Hamilton, Peel Region, Ottawa, LaSalle, Moncton, Halifax, and Dartmouth. We are a leading stakeholder with the federal government on current policy discussions about the financialization of housing and predatory lending. Provincially we have secured legislative victories such as rent control in Nova Scotia, renovation bans in British Columbia, and better rent protections in Ontario. ACORN’s membership speaks for the organization, sets the policy of the organization, and like a union is elected to the board of our organization.

We want to work with you to make sure the positive impacts of CIB funding are maximized. We look forward to hearing back from you,

Please contact our Executive Director and National Head Organizer Judy Duncan to arrange a meeting to discuss this matter.


Marva Burnett
President – ACORN Canada

Brock Haug
Tenant Leader – Wyldewood Estates

Krislyn Jagt
Tenant Leader – Wyldewood Estates