Opinion: Better paths to affordable housing than rent controls

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There is no doubt that the cost of living is at the top of mind for Albertans. Inflation, interest rate hikes, and population growth have contributed to an increased demand for housing across our province.

In this critical moment, Alberta cannot afford to pursue failed policies that make the housing challenge worse. Knee-jerk policies like rent control would have a devastating impact on housing construction and our entire economy. These policies would stall construction, increase the gap between housing supply and demand, and ultimately slow the economy down. In a time when construction of purpose-built rentals is at an all-time high, shutting people out of the rental market and discouraging new construction will only make the problem worse.

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Rent supplements provide support to make market rentals more affordable for Alberta families without inflating the market by providing a subsidy directly to tenants to help make their rental accommodations more affordable. This year, we made an immediate increase to rental supplements by allocating $233 million over three years for rent assistance benefits and expanded eligibility to communities across the province. Alberta has also put in place protections for renters by limiting rent increases to once a year, providing a period of stable rent for tenants. These benefits are providing immediate relief to thousands of families as our province makes significant investments in building new affordable housing.

There are better ways to make housing more affordable and attainable – and that is exactly what Alberta’s government is doing. This year, Alberta’s government made major investments to make more affordable housing units available to Albertans who need them. Compared to the NDP who only built 36 per cent of the affordable housing units that our government has built, we have hundreds of new and updated affordable homes that are now available across the province, from our largest cities to small rural communities, and we are rapidly increasing construction of thousands of new units coming online soon.

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Together with our partners, we are supporting $9 billion in housing investments through our Stronger Foundations plan to provide affordable housing for 25,000 more families by 2031. On top of the $94 million over three years in Budget 2023 for capital maintenance and renewal funding, this fall we announced an additional $16 million to bring old affordable housing units back into use across the province. These investments are making an immediate impact to provide more affordable housing for Albertans to live through simple fixes like replacing roofs, windows, and renewing suites. We continue to develop partnerships and build capacity within the affordable housing system to increase our housing supply.

Alberta leads the country in having the fewest regulations and fastest permit approval times to enable housing construction and increase the supply of homes. Last month, housing starts in Alberta were up 29 per cent from November 2022. Our province continues to break construction records, and the supply of housing is increasing at its fastest rate in decades. Work is underway to remove even more red tape, from eliminating the backlog for land titles to strengthening transparency and for off-site levies, and requiring more transparency and reporting on approval timelines by municipalities. Our municipalities are vital partners as we remove regulatory barriers to build homes and cities like Edmonton and Calgary have worked hard to approve building permit applications quickly to unlock more housing and faster construction timelines.

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As we work with our partners, Alberta’s government continues to be laser-focused on making renting attainable and keeping the dream of home ownership alive for Albertans. All options are on the table when it comes to building more homes for people who need them.

Through significant long-term investments and the removal of red tape, Alberta is rising to address the housing crisis. As government moves forward with policies to support renters and prospective homebuyers, we will ensure that we use effective solutions to keep housing affordable and attainable now, while building a stronger future.

Jason Nixon is the minister for seniors, community and social services.

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