this blog has moved to a new address:

Please update your RSS, bookmarks, and links to

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

everyone needs a place to live.

Only a week after Premier Ed Stelmach ruled out using rent control to deal with the skyrocketing cost of housing and then changed his mind, PC Party delegates forced Stelmach to change his position another 180 degrees to turn against the use of rent control (again):

In the [PC] party's annual general meeting, delegates rejected a motion to adopt the resolutions of an all-party legislature committee that had urged Premier Ed Stelmach's Tory government to adopt rent controls.
Meanwhile, as Stelmach continues to not act on the issue, it seems like Albertans are being left to dry in a climate of skyrocketing rent costs.

Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft
has been continuing to hammer the Stelmach Tories on the issue.
Liberal Leader Kevin Taft says both Premier Ed Stelmach and Housing Minister Ray Danyluk got farm support payments last year.

Taft says its ironic that they take farm support cheques but wont help people struggling with soaring housing costs by imposing rent controls.

He says some Albertans are being forced to sleep in their cars and trucks because soaring rents and a shortage of housing.
Edmonton City Councillor Michael Phair responded
"It's very misguided," Phair said. "There are many people who rent across the province who will be quite disappointed that the [PC] party didn't take a different course of action."
Long-time Calgary Alderman Joe Ceci responded:
"I think it's indicative of the fact that the grassroots of the Tory party doesn't have the best interests of low-income people in mind," he said.
It seems that the Stelmach Tories have found themselves squarely on the wrong side of an explosive issue.

As someone who presented recommendations to the Affordable Housing Task Force earlier this year, it's disappointing to see that the Provincial government hasn't taken a strong leadership role on the issue.


Allie said...

Dave, surely you don't actually believe that the PC Party controls the government caucus. I know Dr. Taft tries to mix the two up in public perception as much as possible - but you are smarter than that.

Also, you know that as soon as it is passed in the Leg there will be a ban on raising rent in Alberta for one year - retroactive to the end of April. That's going to affect alot of Albertans on both sides of this issue, one which I don't think that the "PC Party" can find itself "squarely" on the wrong side of this issue at all - given that as a party we are made up of people who rent, own and are property owners who rent to others. We encompass this issue, as all Albertans do.

People need to give their head a shake here. In the past week I have even heard "liberals" suggest that private home owners should be FORCED by the government to start taking in "renters" regardless of their home size - we have to stop with the madness and approach this problem from a logical and productive place.

Oh, and on a related note - bus passes are going up. Alot. Maybe the government should be forced to make my neighbour drive me around when I need to go places?

Anonymous said...

Stelmach apologist.

christine said...

Relent on rent controls, Tories urged

When Taft asked Danyluk if he would meet with the renters, he said he would.

So, after question period, about two dozen of them made their way to Danyluk's office to meet with the minister or his staff. When Danyluk arrived, he ushered the crowd into a larger room, where he was joined by Snelgrove.

The meeting was tense at times. Danyluk allowed each person to speak in turn, listening as they detailed their rental woes. The group included a single mother, a Rwandan refugee with a five-month-old baby and a woman pushing a walker.
One woman cried. Others thumped the table when they heard something they agreed with.

"We're not looking for handouts, sir, we're looking for solutions," said Peter Tyleman, 55, whose apartment building is being turned into luxury condos.

Jim Sexsmith, a 74-year-old military veteran in a wheelchair, said he wasn't pleased with the minister's response.

"All we got today was lip service, typical political lip service," he said. "The landlords are just raising the rents too high."

Allie said...

You know what - the price of everything is high. My rent is high too. But rent is always high, depending on your means - when I was a single mom I worked three jobs to support two kids and pay the rent - which really did seem high then too (6 years ago). There are always going to be people who can't pay the rent. We need to be able to deal with those people with a sense of compasssion while recognizing that yes, the housing siutation is a crisis - especially in some places like Grand Prairie - but that rent controls are NOT a real solution to the problem. Matter of fact for a renter, rent controls could make the problem even worse.

I don't know what the percentage of Albertan's actually unable to pay highering rent costs (there is a difference between not wanting your rent to go up and not being able to pay it), but I do know my neighbours all pay 1500.00 a month for their units (that's "market value") and don't bat an eye at doing so because they earn enough out at the Oil Rigs to pay it. That's the current reality in Alberta right now and no matter how hard the government tries they aren't going to change that.

I struggle with this because yes, I do rent, and I don't like my rent going up either, and essentially I can't move unless I want to pay that market value price elsewhere... but I do try to see it from the view of the property owner as well. If you have a property that you rent out, I assume that you do so not as a service to Albertans but to make a profit, to secure your families lively hood, or to create a safe future for your retirement.

With rising costs, utilities, property taxes, higher wages for maintenance workers, higher contract costs for upkeep and the associated legal fees with renting - what would motivate someone to continue to rent (especially with property prices at an all time high) if they could not meet all these new needs, rising bills AND still support their families and the goals they set out to achieve when deciding to invest in rental properties?

Why on earth would any developer or potential owner even build new rental units if rent control were in place? Why not just build condos or houses and sell them - at least you will get market value for them.

Nothing is cheap in our province, and I suspect (knowing a few) that most landlords are good people who have families to support and bills to pay, just like us. We need to find a solution that works for all Albertan's, and in the mean time find a way to support the lowest income members of our province who are having the hardest time dealing with the rising costs.

Gauntlet said...

You know those wankers who talk about Economics 101? I'm going to be one of those wankers. Quite literally, in my Economics 101 class at Grant MacEwan College, there was a section of the text that talked about the things on which almost all economists agree. I think the point was to show that there are things economists agree on. They were ranked in order of the percentage of economists who agree with them. Number one on that list?

1. A ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available. (93%)

Later, in the chapter that explains the economic mechanism that causes that problem, they quote an economist who said rent control was "the best way to destroy a city, other than bombing."

For your reference, those quotes appear on pages 12 and 122 of the 2nd Canadian Edition of "Principles of Microeconomics", Mankiw et al., Nelson, 2002.

So I think that when people like Allie say that they're worried about what rent controls would do, there is a reason to take them seriously. Rent controls can have the effect of turning the rent-controlled properties into slums, and reducing the number of rental properties available.

So you end up with more people who have no place to live, and those with a place to live are living in squalor.

That is not, however, an excuse for doing nothing. What the government should do is provide income supplements to help people pay for the ridiculous price of renting.

Then, because they're not going to have the money to do that forever, they're going to have to do something to cool down the economy as a whole. The money that is being poured into the oil sands in the north of our province is putting incredible inflationary pressure on the rest of our economy, and these rent increases are a sign that the government has been thoughtless in its development of our resources.

Anonymous said...

The PC Party doesn't control Stelmach but the Premier is in a much weaker position than Ralph Klein was in terms of party control.

Stelmach chose the easy way out on the issue, he deferred to his party as an excuse to scrap the idea of rent control.

Not that I think rent control is the best solution. In fact, I don't. But I do think there needs to be leadership from the provincial government on the issue.

Not surprisingly, there is little leadership coming from the Office of Premier Ed Stelmach (and judging from his PC Convention speech, I think he'd have a difficult time communicating it if he did have a plan).

trent said...

I love your 'suck it up' attitude, Allie. Tell that to 74 year old veteran Jim Sexsmith. Tell it to the people in Grande Prairie and Fort McMurray who are living in tents or in the backs of their cars.

I blamed Ralph, and now I blame Ed.

This is what happens when you don't have a plan. Stelmach had 13 years in cabinet to say his bit, instead he stayed quiet as Infrastructure Minister while these problems grew.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Allie. Give me a break Dave.

My dad was a landlord and he raised his rents very infrequently. In fact, his rents were not even close to market rents and he was losing money every year from his rental properties.

My dad was loyal to all his tenants and you know how some repaid him. They trashed his apartment units and failed to clean up when they vacated the premises. They left the places like a filthy pigsty. And my dad and I had to clean up for them.

I have been a renter for all my life and I keep my rental unit spotless and I pay my rent on time. If I cannot afford my rent, I go out and get another job. Last time I looked there were lots of jobs in Alberta.

They are a few bad apples on both sides that spoil things for all the good landlords and tenants.

I'm frankly sick and tired of Taft, Blakeman and the rest of the Liberal elite trashing all landlords as greedy and uncaring. That a bunch of bullshit and you know it. Ask Taft and Blakeman where they live in Edmonton. It's not a rental unit, I can assure you. Maybe they can donate their hosues to house some of the people who are actually hard up. My dad would have done that.

$1000 increase!?! said...

I agree with Dave. Give me a break Allie.

Anonymous, I'm glad that you're dad wasn't giving his tenants $1000-$2000 rent increases, but the fact of the matter is that this is what is happening to many Albertans right now.

You may be tired of hearing it, but I'm glad that Taft, Blakeman and the rest of the Liberals are standing up for Albertans on this issue. Stelmach doesn't seem to want to move on it and Danyluk is giving renters lip service.

It's called leadership and if Ed Stelmach isn't willing to step up to the plate, I'm going to have to put my vote behind someone who will.

Anonymous said...

Conservative philosophy: tell the 74-year old facing a ridiculous rent increase to "get a job."

Talk about compassion.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 6:24 pm

I have compassion for 74 year olds who have worked all of their lives. They don't deserve what is happening to them. Nor do those who cannot fend for themselves. It is the young able bodied people who don't take any responsibility for their own lives or the lives of others that irritate me. My dad taught me the value of hard work and I have lived by that credo all my life.

Anonymous said...

$1,000 increase. Let's talk real solutions. Here is one for you. See if yopu can get your head around this. I believe rent increases should be tied on a temporary basis to wear and tear on a rental unit, as well as depreciation. That would be fair to both renter and landlord and would make them both responsible. Call the program the rent stabilization program. Check out what your Liberal pal McGunity did in Ontario. Even they realized that pure rent controls don't work, despite their campaign rhetoric. Do the research my friend.

Hamm172 said...

Oh boo hoo. Winnipeg has had rent controls since the early 90's. What happened there?

No new wholly private Apartment building developments since rent controls began. Widespread deterioration of rental units as repairs (let alone improvements) and maintenance suffered as landlord's incomes dropped. The value of rental units dropped so much that the city lost millions of dollars in taxes when owners were able to challenge their property assesments.
Ultimately, rent control leads to a reduction in affordable housing, not an increase.

I don't oppose direct assistance for seniors and AISH victims. I think they deserve our special consideration.
Everyone else should just suck it up... or leave.

Anonymous said...

Obviously none of you have a clue regarding housing realities or struggles with poverty. There are plenty of people that work hard at one, maybe two jobs to make ends meet. Plenty others who are unable, or perhaps unwilling to work. However, as a society we have a responsibility to children and other unemployables who reside in these families. And don't even try the "shouldn't have had 'em if they couldn't afford them" excuse. Children are born into all sorts of circumstances.

These people are now being asked to increase their payment for a decent place to live, so an apartment owner can make some money. While all's fair in love and war, this is neither. People are being pried out of their homes. There are no alternatives and a government who won't slow economic growth, so they and their corporate pals can get richer.

If these people, who are unable to afford the $1500 average rent for a two bedroom home are unable to pay, I guess we should ship them and their children to another less prosperous community, so the people there can pay for them and their kind. Why would us prosperous folks want to part with our almighty dollars to make society and future society a better place to live for all, when we can have our cake and eat it too!

Paying so much for rent makes it literally impossible to purchase other necessities in life, like power, water and food. Even if they live in an apartment where some of those essentials are included, people should not be expected to subsist so some property owners can get rich quicker.

If being a landlord was so unprofitable, then landlords wouldn't do it, so the only thing happening right now is that those making money are seeing the possibility and probability of making even more. All the power to them, but do they not have a responsibility to ensure that those to whom they are renting can actually afford to pay these rents? Or should the market rule and rents should go as high as is bearable? If it is the bearable, then I sure hope you folks who believe that economics is all about capitalistic ideals will be donating tents and food for the food bank, since the average shmoe will be unable to accommodate the greed of the landlords.

Many of these landlords have owned their properties for a long time, i.e. more than three years; meaning their costs to have purchased the building does not reflect current market values; futher more, this means they are making a killing. With a mortage payment of $25,000 for a $4 million investment, they can take home thousands every month in profit.

So many of them are converting to condominiums. More money now and less required of them. Bought it at $4 Million, selling at $45 million, makes a tidy profit.

Noone denies the landlord the right to make money, but so should the average shmoe not be denied the right to a decent and attainable standard of living. The government needs to ensure that people have a place to live. It was their fanagling that got us into this mess, so it must be their problem solving that gets us out.

But wait,... what better way to rid ourselves of the low lifes and their low life dependents than pricing them out of the market? Teens and immigrants will fill the low paying jobs and the shmoes of the province will high tail it out of Alberta for greener and cheaper pastures. We just pretend like we don't have a plan and many of them will go. Thus rendering the average middle class tax payer less responsible for shmoes and their indigent kind. Better for Alberta and better for the taxpayers, and better for the corporate investors, who are happy to be away with those that might vote liberal (or for a viable alternative).

Allie, as a single mom working three jobs to pay your bills, you must have had help. If not, then I feel for your children who were then obviously raised by strangers since you inevitably could not afford to actually spend time with them. Give your head a shake. Your children deserve more than food, clothing and shelter. They deserve your time and commitment. If you have to work three jobs, society is asking too much of you to sacrifice the emotional stability of your children (thus jeopardizing the future stability of our society) by having to deny them your presence and guidance as a parent. But then you should have known how the 25 years it takes to raise a child would unfold for you, so you could have planned better. You should have married a better guy, or got a better education before popping out the little ones, so you could work two or maybe only one job. Please check the illogical rationale you present as a dressed up excuse to rant and rave about your ability to make a buck.

While you young ones are stretching your intellect in answering these questions, why don't you use your intellect to actually check out the real world. Life isn't a textbook, it is far more complicated and fascinating. You won't solve the problems of our society reading the text book and following it like a literal map for the building of our future. You actually have to 1) know that which you are referring to (experience or something vaguely like it); 2) know the variables and realities as they exist, not hypotheticals, and 3) come up with a solution that meets the needs of society and capitalism. Yep we gotta make a buck or two to survive, but gouging the neighbours isn't quite ethical, or necessary for my survival and ultimate happiness.