What happens if your landlord increases your rent in one year, first by 10 per cent and then six months later by another 11 per cent? That’s a whopping increase of 22 per cent. That’s what’s been happening in central Alberta.
When you ask municipal governments or the provincial government if this increase is legal, they’ll tell you that’s the way the free market operates. What they actually mean is rents are based on what the market can bear. Not, mind you, what individuals or families can bear but what that amorphous abstraction called the free market can bear. Never actually met the “free market” mind you, though I have met individuals and families who have never in their life had a 22-per-cent income raise in one year.
When you dig a little deeper you find each community has some kind of housing authority or a housing committee that typically functions under legislation and policies regulated by the Alberta Municipal affairs department. Under that department website you’ll find housing listed as a subject area and under housing you’ll find a menu that relates to rent. If you persevere and continue reading — and remember the name of the game is to stay relaxed even though you’re sweating hot bricks about the 22-per-cent rent increase in less than a year — you’ll find a subject heading called “Support for renters.”
And then like little Red Riding Hood lost in the forest of government red tape, you’ll find a wolfish sounding document called “core needs thresholds.” It’s about rental subsidies, which is based on your income.
Now landlords are expected to give people three months’ notice about rental increases but nowhere does anyone say you might be eligible for a rental subsidy and often people might move once again, in a panic not realizing there might be options. So if you haven’t panicked or become depressed, and if you like where you are, complete a rental supplement application.
Take deep breaths and stay focused. I know they say don’t sweat the little things — and though this is big — just hang in there. If you’re in a bachelor suite with an annual income lower than $26,000 you might be eligible for a subsidy; or if you are in a one-bedroom apartment with an income below $32,500 the same thing applies. That’s in Ponoka. Each community has its own income cut off for a subsidy, another wrinkle in the red tape.
Alberta is fortunate that based on a 2006 survey, 73 per cent of its people own their home though 27 per cent do not. I’m guessing the 27 per cent are stuck with sometimes surprising rent increases.