Many Calgarians are struggling as the rental market remains hot, driving up prices and tightening supply.
Maggy Wlodarczyk has been living in a one-bedroom apartment downtown with her teenage son for the past three and a half years.
She sleeps in the living room, while her son has the bedroom.
“It’s cramped … it does have quite an impact on my life, in terms of things like not having my own privacy,” Wlodarczyk said.
She wants to move into a two-bedroom but says she can’t afford it.
According to Rentals.ca’s latest rent report, apartments and condos for rent in Calgary went up 14.6 per cent in May compared to last year.
Alberta became the provincial leader for annual rent growth in May, going up 13.4 per cent from last year to more than $1,500 a month.
Wlodarczyk, who is a member of the Calgary city centre chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), says she feels discouraged by the current situation.
“It’s kind of heartbreaking when people who were born and raised here and who’ve been here their entire lives can’t afford to live here anymore,” she said.
Students at the University of Calgary are also struggling to keep up with rising rental prices.
“We’re hearing stories about students living in their cars because they can’t find housing … having to live in the far corners of the city that are poorly served by transit, or they’ll maybe find a place closer to the university but they have to settle for unsafe conditions,” said Mateusz Salmassi, vice-president external for the U of C Students’ Union.
The Calgary Residential Rental Association (CRRA) says high interest rates and population growth are behind the rent increases.
Gerry Baxter, the executive director, says landlords raise the rent so they can pay their inflated monthly bills, then renters bear the brunt of that.
“We have greater demand than there is supply, and so consequently, rents have gone up,” he said.
“Some of the rents have increased by $50, $100. Some have gone up several hundred dollars. It all depends on the circumstances that the landlord has found themselves in.”
Some are calling for rent control, but Baxter says that won’t help.
“Your vacancies will drop considerably. People who need a helping hand won’t be able to get in because most of the affordable housing will already be taken and people won’t leave,” he said.
“You’ll see every other province that has rent controls have much higher rents than what Alberta has.”
Still, Wlodarczyk believes rental caps would help people like her.
“The rents just keep going up and nobody can afford to stay living in the place where they’re living, especially if their wages aren’t catching up.”
Rent in Calgary is roughly $200 a month below the national average for both one- and two-bedroom apartments, according to Rentals.ca.
Calgary sits at 27 out of 35 in the national rent rankings.
Vancouver and Toronto top the list.