Housing investments in Alberta are insufficient, says NDP leader

Alberta’s NDP leader says the UCP government is failing to meet its own goals on affordable housing and rental support.

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Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley on Wednesday called the government’s investment in housing “woefully inadequate” ahead of a debate on a rent and vacancy control bill in the legislature next week.

Notley attacked Premier Danielle Smith’s broken promise to give Albertans tax breaks on their income, citing rent increases over the past year.

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One-bedroom apartment rents in January increased 14 per cent year over year and 22 per cent from 2022, according to a Rentals.ca report.

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“In Calgary alone, there are more than 115,000 people at high risk of homelessness,” Notley said.

Alberta allocated $717 million for affordable housing in capital grants over three years and $257 million in 2024 alone for senior housing, social housing and rental assistance in the government’s 2024 budget.

The government says the funding will help build around 3,300 new affordable housing units and complete 1,800 units already under construction.

“What we’re seeing now is (Finance Minister Nate Horner) just re-announcing things that have always been there,” Notley said.

“In the past it has been suggested that this government would invest three or four times that amount over the next nine years, but if you look at the budget… they are nowhere near meeting the pace of funding that the minister says they need. “We are going to contribute.”

The province is also expanding rental assistance to 550 new households, bringing the number of families using its programs to 12,700.

Notley cited the additions as marginal and a break with the province’s goals for rent supplements. The government’s ten-year strategy, which Notley also considers insufficient, foresees 12,000 new households included in such subsidies, an average of 1,000 households per year.

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“They could have made sure that, at a minimum, they at least met their own goals,” Notley said.

Home building
Construction on a multifamily project in the Belvedere area of ​​southeast Calgary continued on Thursday, February 15, 2024. Gavin Young/Postmedia

He also spoke about Bill 205, which will be debated in the legislature by Alberta NDP housing critic Janis Irwin on Monday, as a solution to the crisis.

The bill will seek to amend the Mobile Home Site Leasing Act and the Residential Leasing Act to include regulations related to rent increases and the creation of affordable housing.

The first would limit rate increases to two percent for the first two years. Over the next three years, the increases would be tied to the consumer price index, but the amount would not exceed five percent or fall below two percent, regardless of the CPI.

The restrictions would also extend to vacant units.

Implementation details will be determined later if the bill is passed.

The amendments will allow landlords to ask the Residential Tenancy Disputes Board for rent increases above the cap if they face higher renovation costs.

Affordable housing units would be exempt from such limitations, since most rents are tied to the tenant’s income.

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“Housing security would immediately address the problem of skyrocketing rents,” Notley said. “It’s the solution to help renters right now, with no programs to apply for or hurdles to jump through.”

But the UCP has made clear in the past that it will not support the bill.

The legislation would also require the minister responsible for housing to publish minimum targets for the construction of social and affordable housing units each fiscal year, including single-family residences, multi-unit apartment buildings and social housing for different groups, such as seniors, who It would then be published in the province’s annual report.

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