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Alberta tenants demonstrate ahead of throne speech as provincial rents soar

Click to play video: 'Alberta throne speech promises affordability measures, but is it enough?'
Alberta throne speech promises affordability measures, but is it enough?
The Alberta throne speech promises measures to reduce the cost of living, but is it enough? Tomasia DaSilva reports. – Oct 30, 2023

Renters in Alberta having to deal with astronomical rent increases appear to be left out in the cold after Monday’s throne speech.

Linda Leger is one such Albertan.

At 65 years old, she was recently handed an increase that would see her rent double. She said this year she’s seen her landlord rent out multiple units in the same building for just $25 more than what she was paying.

She also said she has been an “exemplary tenant” for eight years, but her landlord is not willing to negotiate the rise in rent.

“I should not have to be displaced from my home because of somebody else’s greed. He made it really clear that he just wants his money,” Leger said.

She said she’s been trying all sorts of strategies to be able to afford food that provides some nutrition.

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Click to play video: 'Business News: More bad news for renters'
Business News: More bad news for renters

Leger said she wants to see ministers of affordability and utilities, and of seniors, community and social services live up to her reading of their mandate letters.

“In their mandate letter it is very clear that they are to redevelop the housing industry — all aspects of it — and to remove barriers to renters,” she said. “The barriers to renters are rent.”

Monday afternoon, Lt. Gov. Salma Lakhani read the throne speech, a speech that included mention of an “attainable” housing strategy promised by the United Conservative Party.

The throne speech mentioned expanding the use of rent supplements “to better use existing rental market capacity” and supporting 12,000 more low-income households with rent assistance.

The government also promised to build 25,000 new units by 2031 “to ensure Albertans can find homes to rent and buy that fit within their budgets.”

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Click to play video: 'Renters, homeowners frustrated as Canada’s inflation rate increases to 4%'
Renters, homeowners frustrated as Canada’s inflation rate increases to 4%

Political scientist Duane Bratt said there wasn’t much in the throne speech for renters.

“I don’t think renters are their clientele, for this government,” Bratt said. “It’s about home ownership.

“But a throne speech is not going to have levels of detail in it. But they could have said more on that topic.”

Bratt said the throne speech offered nothing new since the spring election, saying the speech could have been written in May.

Rachel Notley, leader of the Opposition, said the throne speech was “riddled with vague commitments and was “completely silent on some of the major stressors being faced by Albertans today, such as the UCP’s threat to their Canada Pension Plan.”

Click to play video: 'New study renews debate around tightening the laws around short-term rentals'
New study renews debate around tightening the laws around short-term rentals

“This is a government that doesn’t care about many of the major challenges everyday Albertans face, and that is set and that is set on taking us backwards when we should be moving forward,” Notley said.

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Kavin Sheikheldin has spent most of her life in subsidized housing in Calgary, and she’s trying to get more politically active for herself and those around her.

“I have experienced a lot of issues in the building, including cockroach, bed bug infestation and plumbing issues, you name it. It’s really caused me mental health issues, including stress, anxiety, depression,” Sheikheldin told Global News.

“Everyone I’m seeing every single day in this city or country I’m hearing is struggling to find a place to call home.”

Click to play video: 'Albertans worried about making mortgage, rent payments as affordability crisis continues'
Albertans worried about making mortgage, rent payments as affordability crisis continues

Part of a protest Monday morning with Acorn Canada, a tenant’s union, Sheikheldin shared what she hoped to hear from the province.

“I want them to focus on adding more funding to build more accessible, affordable, sustainable housing in this province and also the use of affordable, accessible housing,” she said.

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Leger said she won’t be getting much for the new rent of $1650.

“The place is filthy. They haven’t cleaned up the garbage. They have vexatious tenants. They keep tenants in that smoke — it’s a non-smoking building.”

While the throne speech touched on affordability issues like taxes, utility costs and insurance costs, as well as “provincial rights,” fiscal responsibility and infrastructure, the leader of the Opposition said the throne speech fell short of acknowledging the importance of housing.

“The fact is, housing is one of the foundations of the economy. If we want to continue attracting people to live here and if we want future leaders to stay here, we need real action on housing,” Notley said.

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