March 5, 2024

Soften the Blow: Advocating for Rental Market Reform in Alberta

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In the realm of housing, the struggle to find affordable rental accommodations is an ever-present challenge. With rental prices soaring, the need for innovative solutions has never been more critical. Our recent advocacy efforts have centred around proposing a pilot program to test the viability of implementing Quebec’s “soft rent cap” model in Alberta’s rental market.

In our January/February Advocacy Update blog post, we introduced our white paper titled “Soften the Blow,” urging the provincial government to consider the implementation of a pilot program based on Quebec’s successful approach. This proposal garnered significant media attention, with coverage from prominent outlets such as:



Sarah Crosbie’s CONNECT radio show

Additionally, we submitted our white paper to the Ministry of Advanced Education, receiving acknowledgment of our contribution and an assurance that our idea would be taken into consideration.

However, amidst the attention our proposal received, certain criticisms emerged, particularly from Dr. Moshe Lander of Concordia University and the Ministry of Seniors, Community, and Social Services. We welcome constructive dialogue and would like to address some of the concerns raised.

Dr. Lander highlighted the potential for landlords to prioritize renters with stable income under the proposed model. While acknowledging this concern, we would argue that landlords already have financial incentive to prioritize such tenants. Regardless, we invite further discussion on mechanisms that could reinforce this incentive structure.

Moreover, concerns were raised about the risk of landlords neglecting properties under the Quebec model. However, it’s essential to note that the model includes safeguards to mitigate this risk, such as applying only to properties over five years old and reducing rent levels if neglect is proven. Additionally, piloting the program allows for adjustments to address any unforeseen challenges before a broader implementation.

Regarding the Province’s response, we emphasize that the proposed model offers an alternative to traditional rent control, addressing government concerns while providing much-needed relief to Albertans, including graduate students facing housing insecurities. We underscore the amendments outlined in our paper, which aim to adapt the Residential Tenancies Act to align with the Quebec model’s principles.

Furthermore, we highlight the potential of the proposed model to provide more accurate market information and incentivize investments in rental properties, thus fostering a healthier rental market ecosystem.

In conclusion, the need for rental market reform in Alberta is urgent, and our proposed pilot program based on Quebec’s “soft rent cap” model offers a promising avenue for addressing this need. We urge the provincial government to explore this option diligently, keeping in mind the pressing challenges faced by renters including graduate students across the province. Together, through collaborative efforts and innovative solutions, we can work towards a more equitable and sustainable rental market for all Albertans.

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