Alberta affordability going from ‘bad to worse’ says advocacy group

Click to play video: 'Affordability problems in Alberta continue to grow'
Affordability problems in Alberta continue to grow
WATCH: According to a recent survey by Stats Canada, many Canadians are going without necessities. Tomasia Dasilva reports on the growing cost-of-living problem across the country. – Nov 14, 2023

An Alberta advocacy group is sounding the alarm about affordability — or rather unaffordability — in the province.

Public Interest Alberta is a non-profit, non-partisan, province-wide organization focused on education and advocacy on public interest issues. It told Global News nothing is more in the public interest right now than the lack of affordable housing, food and utilities.

“There’s no two ways about it — Albertans are living through an affordability crisis that has gone from bad to worse since the beginning of the pandemic,” executive director Brad Lafortune said.

“It’s right across the province. Albertans are continuously being asked to do more with less.”

Lafortune said that is putting a huge strain on resources such as food banks.

“If you look at Calgary for example, more than 700 families are accessing those emergency hampers every single day. If you go back to 2019, that was 300 families. One family is too many but if we’ve doubled in the past four years, we’re doing something seriously wrong.”

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Lafortune pointed out, in the past, those struggling usually comprised of people on income supports and other government aid. He added while that is still the case, many others are now falling through the cracks.

“Now it’s working-class and middle-class Albertans who don’t know what they’re going to do to make ends meet when their mortgage comes up for renewal, or when their rent goes up 20 or 25 per cent.”

He said the answer to Albertans’ struggling is simple and involves all levels of government working together — not what he said they’re doing now.

“There’s a lot of finger-pointing.”

Families stretch their budgets

Calgarian Derrick Adams agreed. The father of six children told Global News he’s never seen it this bad.

“It seems to be getting worse,” he said. “Not worse by a little but exponentially worse.”

“It’s getting to the point where I think a lot of people, or those that are on the margins, are sleeping out there in tents.”

Fearful for the future, Adams said he is going back to the past — back to when people co-operated with each other and shared things, including food.

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His family has been using a ‘hack’ which includes buying in bulk and then splitting the proceeds with other family, friends and even neighbours.

“We will buy a certain amount that can stretch and we will split it,” he said.

Unfortunately, he said that is not possible with utilities, the cost of which continue to soar sky-high.

“The utility bills are without bounds. They can raise it to anything they want can’t they?” he said.

“Where do you stop? What’s the ceiling?”

Canadians shocked by power bills

Soaring power bills are shocking many Canadians’ budgets.

A recent Statistics Canada survey found that in 2023, about one in seven Canadian households (15 per cent) had to reduce or forgo expenses for basic necessities — such as food and medicine — for at least a month just to pay an energy bill.

In Alberta, that number rose to 24 per cent of households, the highest rate among provinces.

The survey also found 14 per cent of Canadian households reported that they kept their dwelling at an unsafe or uncomfortable temperature for at least one month in the past 12 months because of unaffordable heating or cooling costs.

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