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More around Calgary turning to campgrounds for affordable housing

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More people around Calgary turning to campgrounds for affordable housing
WATCH: The affordability crisis is hitting concerning heights. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, the rising costs and lack of housing supply are forcing some people to turn to camping even during the winter months. – Jan 29, 2024

Camping is something many families look forward to in the summer as a chance to get away from the city.

But the cost of either renting or buying a home is resulting in some people around Calgary turning to campgrounds for year-round accommodations.

Mountainview Camping is just four kilometres east of Calgary and is usually a popular and convenient location for tourists camping in the summer.

“The rental properties in Calgary, in Okotoks and surrounding area are outrageous,” Rae Hilton said. “There’s another lady out here, she moved out here because her landlord raised the rent from $1,800 to $3,400 and she can’t afford it.

“It’s the same thing with us. We can’t afford that.”

Hilton, her husband and three kids have been living in a trailer at Mountainview Camping since the summer.

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After their rent went up again, instead of looking for more traditional housing they bought a $60,000 trailer.

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“We didn’t want to get something that was going to freeze in the middle of the night like when it was -40 a couple weeks ago,” Hilton said.

“It was a big decision. It was a big investment. But the thing was if we had gone for a secondhand one we didn’t know what we were going to get into. At least this one has a warranty on it so if something happens someone can fix it.”

She said their rent in Okotoks, Alta., went to $3,400 without utilities.

The monthly costs for living in the campground are less than $1,000 for the fees and Hilton pays $600 for the payments on the trailer.

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The trailer is cramped quarters for sure, but they’re adjusting. Both Hilton and her husband work full time and her daughter has two jobs.

She said having dogs makes it harder to find a place.

“It was hard because it would be better to be in a house, but you do whatever it takes and it doesn’t matter. If that means buying a trailer to make sure your family has a roof over their heads and food in the bellies, that’s what you’re going to do,” Hilton said.

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Ron Weber was visiting the campground on Sunday. His daughter brought a trailer three months ago and is now living at the campground because it was hard to find a place she could afford that would take her cats.

“I think it’s outrageous. The cost of living — a person just can’t find anything,” Weber said.

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Further east down the Transcanada Highway at Strathmore Highway Camping, the owners only have two people staying for the winter.

They had more last year but their utilities went through roof to $6,000 a month, leading to an operating loss.

“Raising the rent doesn’t fix the problem,” co-owner Brenda McCool aid. “Those people are here because of the low rent and have a hard enough time paying that.”

The owners said they helped a family find a place to stay in October. McCool said there was no way they would allow them to live in a tent trailer during the cold months.

“They were out of work at the time and not being able to find a place for that many people to live. There were three children and two adults living in a tent trailer. Winter was coming and we had to tell them this isn’t safe. We sent them in the direction of the housing offices in town and they did eventually find a home to live in,” McCool said.

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Mountainview owner Chris Braeutigam said that campground has also taken financial losses this year “because of the high cost of utilities and people not paying their rent.”

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Hilton said she’s concerned about the lack of affordable housing in Calgary.  She never thought she’d be living in a trailer with her family.

“To me it’s greed. It’s greed on the government. It’s greed on the corporations that are raising prices. It’s greed on everybody,” Hilton said.

“The middle class has now become the lower class. The lower class is now in poverty and the people in poverty are now homeless.”

Hilton said she grew up in the Northwest Territories and moved to Calgary in 1988.

“It’s not what I remember. There used to be a living wage, so you could make ends meet,”

According to the City of Calgary’s most recent housing needs assessment, nearly one-fifth of Calgary households could not afford their housing in 2021.

According to the CMHC rental market report, overall vacancy rate in Calgary dropped to 2.7 per cent, the lowest since 2014.

“Record migration into Alberta largely supported rental demand while increases in supply were not enough to balance it out. Affordability is a concern since not enough homes are considered affordable for lowest income household,” read the report.

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