A grassroots tenant advocacy group based in Calgary is demanding rent control measures in Alberta.
The group has initiated a petition drive which so far has netted around 2,000 signatures, according to its website.
Currently, Alberta landlords are free to raise rent once a year so long as tenants receive adequate notice. However, the rental market in Calgary has been sluggish lately, with landlords holding off on rent increases and some offering incentives.
Still, tenant advocates argue that landlords are free to raise rent to whatever figure they choose and warn that tenants could see a 200% annual increase in rent. The petition initiative goes on to cite 2007 rent increase numbers — when Calgary was experiencing an unprecedented housing boom.
Affordable housing is a pervasive problem in most major urban markets. It is understandable that tenants are concerned, especially those in vulnerable populations or on fixed incomes. But with an influx of new applicants keeping demand for rental homes high, some long-term tenants inevitably will be squeezed out of prime neighbourhoods. It’s not fair.
Placing the burden of reducing housing costs solely on landlords also is unfair. Tenants may spend 40% or more of their income on rent. Yet there is no push to cap cost increases on items that take up the other 60% — like cell phones and groceries. Governments that enact rent control typically fail to include corresponding provisions that place limits on landlord costs, like repairs, taxes, utilities, unplanned vacancies and property damage due to bad tenants, or costs associated with eviction delays.
The cruel irony is that rent control measures actually may exacerbate the problem. A new study of San Francisco’s rent control measures conducted by Stanford University found that to be the case. In that city, housing supply dropped by 15%, and that resulted in a corresponding city-wide rent increase of 5.1%. Researchers concluded that regulating private landlords was an ineffective way to increase affordable housing options.
In a similar survey commissioned by the Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario, research showed as many as 20,000 planned apartment units may be pulled from consideration after lawmakers expanded the province’s strict rent control measures to include new buildings.
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