‘These rent increases are out of control’: Calgarians rally amid housing crisis

By Dione Wearmouth

It’s no secret Calgary is dealing with a housing crisis, but solutions could be on the horizon as city councillors start the process of deciding what to do.

Meanwhile, residents are fed up with the housing crisis.

That was the message that around 100 people wanted councillors to know as they rallied in front of Calgary’s Municipal Building Thursday.

Many organizations, such as Hillhurst United Church, the University of Calgary Student Union, and the Calgary Alliance for the Common Good, were leading chants, which they hope will echo through chambers as council undergoes the several-day process of choosing a housing strategy.

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Many attendees pushed for rent caps, while others sought more affordable housing units in and around the city.

One attendee, David, had a pretty clear message for council.

“Just listen to your experts,” he told CityNews.

“One hundred and fifty people don’t need to come out here and tell you to listen to your experts. You’ve hired these people to tell you what to do, and they’re qualified to tell you what to do … I’m just some student. Listen to the experts.”

He says Calgary was a desirable place to move back to after living in Vancouver for some time, but he says the rental prices between the two cities aren’t that different.

“I was living in Vancouver for eight months, and I was like, ‘I’ll come back to Calgary, rent will be really cheap,’ but it’s not. It’s … almost the same, and it’s just crazy to think that Calgary is becoming a city like Vancouver with how expensive it is to live here,” he said.

“Two years ago, I was paying, you know, sub $700 – $800 for rent, and now I’m paying over $1,000, and it’s just such a big increase in such a short time span.”

Another person at the rally, Chloe, says to “build more.”

“Build on where people want to live. There are loads of places in Calgary where we can just squeeze a little tighter. We don’t need a large single home fulfilling every lot and every block,” she said.

Many said there needs to be a rental cap put in place, while others demanded more affordable housing units.

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NDP housing critic Janis Irwin says she regularly heard from students drowning in the costs associated with living.

She says it’s not radical to consider some form of rent control.

“These rent increases are out of control. We know that nearly every jurisdiction across Canada has some sort of rent control rent cap. I mean, I think looking at a temporary rent cap, perhaps at the rate of inflation, is not something that’s radical,” she told reporters in front of the Municipal Building.

While she’s happy the city is working to tackle the issue, she didn’t have the same praise for the province, accusing the government of showing a complete lack of leadership.

“It’s hopeful to see all orders of government coming together, and it’s helpful to see so many Calgarians who are now speaking out and saying this is a priority because, for too long, the housing crisis wasn’t on people’s radar,” Irwin said.

Now, councillors are hearing recommendations to address the crisis, such as ways to increase the housing supply, make the current supply more affordable, and help tenants.

Over 125 people have signed up to speak at the council meeting.

A special meeting is being held on Saturday, where a new housing strategy is expected to be announced.

-With files from Nick Blakeney

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