Central Alberta renters who live paycheque to paycheque are worried about keeping a roof over their heads during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve been fortunate to not be laid off yet, but I know if I were, I would not be able to make next month’s rent,” said Josh McLean, who pays $900 a month for his Red Deer apartment.
“If I miss one paycheque, I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent. I wouldn’t be able to pay my car payment, etc.”
He hasn’t yet needed to talk to his landlord about deferring rent, but has heard about some landlords who have made it difficult on tenants.
He urged the province to put bans on evictions and rent increases.
“Counting on them to do the right thing does not provide a lot of comfort to people who might be homeless,” said McLean, who also wanted to see government funding specifically for renters.
Premier Jason Kenney previously said landlords must be able to deal with problem tenants, and the province didn’t want to make the situation “even worse unintentionally” by banning evictions.
He also praised major landlords for offering flexible terms.
“I believe any good landlord is going to show flexibility to their tenants now. It would make absolutely no sense for a landlord to threaten to evict somebody who has no money to pay rent in the weeks to come, because who’s going to take that space,” Kenney said during a March 20 press conference.
According to the 2016 federal census, 34.5 per cent of Red Deerians were renters. Across the province, about 27 per cent of Albertans rented.
In February, Red Deer renters paid an average of $959 for a one-bedroom unit and $1,038 for two bedrooms, according to renters.ca.
Advocacy groups across Canada, for both landlords and tenants, are calling on the federal and provincial governments to offer some kind of relief before April 1.
Kenney said one of the reasons the province was rolling out self-isolation payments of more than $1,100 was to tide people over while they wait for federal funding in April.
Franklin Kutuadu, chief administrative officer with the Red Deer Housing Authority, said April rent supplements have already been sent out to the agency’s 530 social housing clients in central Alberta.
“The main worry right now is, ‘if I don’t pay my rent, what will happen?’ We’re not going to evict anybody,” Kutuadu said.
“Now that the layoffs have happened, it will be in April that we’ll be able to get a much better picture.”
As April payments come due for renters, a major Red Deer landlord has promised to work with tenants who can’t pay rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust said it will continue to work with residents in financial hardship, as it has done for decades.
“Those who have had a reduction in hours, or who have been unemployed due to COVID-19 and who do not have access to sufficient resources to pay their rent, can continue to work with our team towards a mutually beneficial resolution.
“We have mobilized our regional teams to help prioritize those resident members who are in need,” said Boyd Belisle, community and corporate culture director, in a statement.
Boardwalk, which has nine buildings in Red Deer, has encouraged residents to access government support, and has provided residents with links to funding programs.