Calgary Herald: Calgary tenants group pushes for rent control, eviction protection
Posted September 2, 2022
A group of Calgary renters is organizing to advocate for better tenants’ protections in the city.
The ACORN Tenant Union began in Calgary this June, looking to represent and advocate for low- and middle-income renters in the city. As of Thursday, their membership list had reached more than 1,100.
That count includes Jordie Hoffman, a University of Calgary student who has lived in four different rental units in the past year, finding difficulties securing housing as Calgary’s market sees rising prices and minimal vacancy.
“There aren’t that many renting places available for students or low-income people,” Hoffman said.
“Our main concern right now is trying to change the laws, to implement rent control in Alberta. That’s what we’re all working towards.”
Rent regulation legislation dictates when a landlord may increase rents, and by how much.
Currently, in Alberta, landlords can only raise the rent after a year or more has passed since the last rent increase or the start of tenancy, but there’s no legal limit on the amount by which they may hike rent. Some other provinces do place caps on rent increases; for this year, rent hikes are limited to 1.5 per cent and 1.2 per cent in British Columbia and Ontario, respectively.
In a statement, the provincial Ministry of Seniors and Housing said Alberta’s legislation provides longer periods of stability for tenants by restricting increases to once per year. They said rent controls can have negative long-term effects on the market.
“Our legislation strikes a balance between maintaining a stable rental market and ensuring citizens can find housing to meet their needs and budgets,” said Dylan Topal, press secretary to Seniors and Housing Minister Josephine Pon.
“Rent controls can hinder the rental market over the long term by discouraging new development and reducing capacity to maintain and upgrade existing properties.”
Topal said the provincial United Conservative government is currently funding a program to increase affordable housing supply by 25,000 over 10 years, and said programs including the Rent Supplement Program and Rent Assistance Benefit are in place to help those struggling to pay bills.
Elsewhere, Hoffman said ACORN is advocating for stronger eviction protection and the creation of a landlord licensing system, an idea they said would make landlords more accountable to the upkeep of their properties.
The organization said they plan to meet with politicians ahead of next spring’s provincial election to push for those policy changes.
Rent in Calgary has increased at a rate significantly higher than the Canadian average over the past year, according to recent Rentals.ca data. The average monthly cost of a one-bedroom rental unit in Calgary was $1,583 in July 2022, up 27.1 per cent year-over-year; across the country, average rent jumped 10.7 per cent in the same time.
Meanwhile, rental vacancy rates are low, with Hope Street Management recently pegging them at one per cent. The short supply means dozens of prospective renters sometimes apply for the same rental listing, leaving most still searching.
“When I went to look for a place to live months ago, there were tons of people looking for rental housing. We’d go to a showing and there would be a line of people waiting to see it, which is pretty disheartening, if you don’t have family in the city,” Hoffman said. “You’re basically just desperate for whatever you can get.”
ACORN said its membership includes people like families, single parents, students and seniors.
The organization operates nationally, but expanded to Calgary in June.