Renters facing rising costs

By: Rob Altemeyer - Wolseley MLA Constituency Report

As published in The Metro

May 2, 2018

It’s a tough time to be a renter in the Wolseley constituency.

Rental units are an important housing option in every neighbourhood in my constituency, especially in West Broadway where renters make up over 90 per cent of the population. What they all have in common is that renters are being squeezed by the government in multiple ways. Let’s recap some of the new problems that renters are facing.

1. Rising utility bills. This government fully supports increasing hydro rates by 7.9 per cent for six years in a row. At the same time, the government is bringing in a carbon tax that will increase the cost of natural gas used for heating our homes. All of these costs are paid for by renters, either through rent increases or as direct bills on top of their monthly rent.

2. No new efficiency programs. Instead of launching new efficiency programs to help reduce our bills as utility rates continue to increase, the government has slammed the breaks on successful Power Smart programs. Landlords who may have been interested in fixing up their properties now have even fewer opportunities to do so, and tenants will be left paying the bills.

3. Cuts to Rent Assist. For the second year in a row, the government has made a big cut to the Rent Assist program. Brought in by the previous government, Rent Assist provides financial support to anyone— students, seniors, disabled, low-income workers and those on EIA — based on their income levels and the amount of rent they pay in a private unit. The Right to Housing Coalition calculates a single minimum-wageworker is losing over $1,300 per year due to cuts to Rent Assist, while a two-parent family with three kids is now losing over $2,000 per year.

To help fix these problems, I recently introduced changes to the Residential Tenancies Act. It would require landlords to reduce utility costs in their buildings before they could get an above-guideline rent increase. I also called for government support to help landlords with these retrofits. The government blocked my bill from passing.