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Calgary Herald: As Calgary faces 25 per cent spike in rental prices, parties eye housing affordability - ACORN Canada

Calgary Herald: As Calgary faces 25 per cent spike in rental prices, parties eye housing affordability

Posted April 27, 2023

‘Things have gotten dire, very, very quickly and very, very recently,’ said Fable Dowling, a member of the local branch of the ACORN Tenant Union

With rental prices in Calgary jumping 25 per cent in the past year, a tenants’ advocacy group wants to make rental affordability an election issue.

Asking rents sit at an average $1,890 for purpose-built and condominium apartments in Calgary as of the start of April, according to a report. That’s up 24.9 per cent from the same time last year, ranking as the largest increase in rent prices across Canada.

That increase is pricing some Calgarians out of being able to afford basic housing, argued Fable Dowling, a member of the local branch of the ACORN Tenant Union.

They’re calling for the province to implement rent control measures, specifically seeking a legislated rent cap at two per cent annually.

“Things have gotten dire, very, very quickly and very, very recently,” Dowling said.

“ACORN’s members are mostly low- to moderate-income people, and all the stories we’ve heard from our members are really heartbreaking. There are people who are facing hundreds of dollars in rental increases, and these are single-parent families, elderly people, people who might be unable to work for any number of reasons, newcomers to the city.

“It’s people who are already in a very precarious situation. Even if they’re able to make all their bill payments — paying for rent, utilities, a car, a transit pass, buying groceries — it is so rare that they’re able to save anything for any kind of emergency expense.”

In Alberta, landlords currently can raise rent only once per year and must give three months’ notice — but there is no limit on the amount by which they can increase rent.

Several other provinces have rent control policies; in British Columbia, the cap is two per cent this year, while Ontario’s limit is 2.5 per cent.

UCP not considering rent hikes cap; NDP noncommittal

Postmedia asked both the governing UCP and the NDP their stance on rent control in Alberta ahead of the expected May 29 provincial election.

A spokesperson for Service Alberta Minister Dale Nally said while the provincial government sympathizes with residents struggling to deal with rising inflation, they aren’t currently considering a cap on rent hikes.

“Rent controls can harm the rental market over the long term by discouraging new development at a time when housing supply is needed and reducing capacity to maintain and upgrade existing properties,” said Jared Gustafson, Nally’s press secretary. He added current legislation ensures renters have stable rent for a year.

Gustafson said the province is focusing instead on affordability supports including utility rebates and pointed to two government programs — the Temporary Rent Assistance Benefit and the Rent Supplement Program — for those grappling with making rent.

The NDP wouldn’t commit to rent control policy, but said capping prices would be up for discussion if they are elected. In a statement, NDP seniors and housing critic Lori Sigurdson said her party would have an “extensive conversation” about rental policy if they win at the polls next month, and would consult renters, landlords and policy experts in those decisions.

“We constantly hear from renters about how hard it is to make ends meet while rent skyrockets, particularly in Calgary,” Sigurdson said. She pointed to an NDP commitment to build 40,000 additional affordable housing units within five years as their main approach to the file.

“Our commitment to housing will make a difference through increasing the amount of non-market housing and rental assistance.”

Responses disheartening: advocate

The parties’ lack of commitment to rent control is disheartening, said Dowling, who added ACORN is non-partisan and will continue lobbying any government on policy reform.

Dowling said the UCP’s disinterest in rent control was known, but they were disappointed by the NDP not adopting the policy as the election campaign period approaches.

“They have a responsibility as the self-proclaimed progressive party in Alberta to be aware of the current situation facing a vast majority of their constituents, and I don’t think they’re prioritizing that right now,” they said.

Dowling added ACORN is also calling on several other rental reforms, including the implementation of a landlord licensing and registry system and stronger eviction protections.


Article by Jason Herring for Calgary Herald