A group of parents is urging the government to make changes to prevent discrimination against families when it comes to housing in Alberta.
Six years ago, Jodie McKague got a divorce and had to look for a new home downtown with her then three-year-old daughter.
“I came up against so many housing barriers when I tried to rent a place,” she said.
“They’re very direct about it. There’s no secret. They’ll tell you ‘we don’t allow children’.”
After being turned away from place after place, she felt hopeless.
“I ended up sleeping with my daughter in my art studio, which I wasn’t allowed to do, but I didn’t have anywhere else to go,” McKague explained.
READ MORE: Raising 5 kids in a 1,000 square-foot condo
In 2016, she helped establish the Child-Friendly Housing Coalition of Alberta in an attempt to ensure other parents don’t run into the same problems with adults-only housing.
Heather MacKenzie is the group’s government relations director.
“Essentially we’re trying to get the government of Alberta to amend human rights legislation to end discrimination against children when it comes to tenancy,” she explained.
The legislation currently protects people from being discriminated against because of things like race, religious beliefs or disabilities.
MacKenzie said right now, Alberta is the only province in Canada where tenants can be turned away because they have children.
“It’s both a limitation on us and also a limitation on the homeowners within those condos that are trying to sell and can’t sell to people with children,” she explained.
“We think that the condo documents originated in the 1950s and 1960s and they’ve been the same ever since then. It’s very difficult to change condo bylaw documents,” said Chelsey Jersak.
READ MORE: Alberta: home of the one-income family
Jersak comes from an urban planning background and also helped the group get off the ground.
“We think it’s really important that children are included in all kinds of housing in order to create diverse, complete and inclusive communities,” she explained.
The group held their official launch party at a new, family-friendly luxury apartment complex called The Hendrix, located at 9733 111 St. in downtown Edmonton.
Property manager Michelle Calloway said she’s experienced the need for child-friendly housing firsthand at The Hendrix in a way unlike any other city is Western Canada. Where normally one-bedroom units are first to go, in Edmonton it was the three bedrooms.
She often sees parents-to-be coming to The Hendrix after being evicted from their condo or apartment because they were adults-only.
“We have, I’d say, one to three a day that come in that are pregnant, looking for family housing, having to relocate — which is quite difficult when you’re pregnant.”
McKague and Jersak want to change the perception that downtown isn’t a good place to raise a family and encourage developers to build more three-bedroom units.