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Notley calls for an all-party committee to address Calgary housing crisis

Official Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said the UCP government has “abdicated” its housing responsibility as Calgarians struggle to cope with rising rental prices.

Notley met with media Wednesday morning at the cSpace King Edward theatre in the southwest Calgary community of Marda Loop to call for an all-party legislative committee to address the housing crisis in Calgary.

Housing costs are a pressing issue in Calgary, and Notley said building an all-party housing committee is the first step to dealing with the challenge.

“However, we know this provincial government has abdicated its responsibility, to this point that today, I’ve written to the premier and the minister, which we think is responsible for housing to call for the immediate establishment of an all-party legislative committee,” Notley said.

“This committee would engage with stakeholders and renters and experts and through that transparency, we would draft recommendations to fix this problem in a way that is very, very similar to what happened in the mid-2000s where a similar all-party committee was established.”

Notley pointed out the recent increase in rental prices in Calgary as cause for concern, with no immediate stop to the rising prices in sight.

“Calgary was once one of the most of the most affordable cities in Canada,” Notley said.

“Calgary is now nearly as expensive as Montreal and much, much, much higher than Edmonton”

According to Rentals.ca’s latest rent report, apartments and condos for rent in Calgary went up 14.6 per cent in May compared to the same month last year. Still, Calgary is among the lowest in the country for one and two-bedroom rents out of 35 cities, faring 27th and 26th respectively. Further, Calgary hasn’t really budged from that spot over the past 18 months.

Earlier in June, Calgary city council first scrapped, then conditionally approved recommendations from its own Housing and Affordability Task Force. Their goal was to provide a series of recommendations that would help improve both market and non-market housing conditions in Calgary over the short- and long-term.

They had targeted the addition of 1,000 more homes than are traditionally built in Calgary to try and add supply to ease pressures on the local market. A plan for the deployment of those recommendations is expected in September.

Big increases hit renters hard

Sydney Welch and her partner were hit with a 22 per cent increase in January. She said the process of finding affordable housing is becoming more and more difficult.

“This is a huge concern for Albertans,” she said.

“We both work full time and were shocked by the increase. We’ve had friends that have had 30 to 40 per cent increases and they’re left panicking and frantically searching with nowhere to go.”

Welch finally found something that fit into their budget.

“There were over 100 people applying for the apartment that we were looking at,” she said.

“The rental market is extremely competitive and there’s little to nothing protecting renters right now under the current Residential Tenancy Act.”

Notley also mentioned that the rising rentals costs have many more impacts outside of the finical ramifications.

“We’re hearing from families who are being served notes for rent hikes for more than 25 per cent sometimes as high as 40 per cent,” Notley said.

“Searching for housing now involves navigating weakness and pain applications. In desperation, some families are settling for unsafe and unsanitary suites, while others are being forced into friends or onto friends’ couches, or worse onto the street.”

Notley did note that there’s no fixed plan as to what route this committee would go as of right now. Multiple options are on the table.

“One of the options that we’re going to seek feedback on is a cap on rental increases. Now we have to have this conversation, there may actually be better options out there than a rental cap. Or even if a rental cap is something that’s important, it certainly doesn’t need to be permanent. But the fact of the matter is Albertans need to hear all the options that are available,” Notley said.

“A similar all-party committee was established the last time the province faced an affordable housing crisis. This committee would get to work right away. And of course, Alberta’s NDP Official Opposition would be willing and enthusiastic participants.”

LWC spoke with experts earlier this year about a rental cap and most indicated that it would have a short-term impact at best. Limited rental increases that don’t match the market demand can curb the development of additional units that would ease housing supply issues.