A central Alberta nonprofit organization working out of an Alberta government building will have to move to a smaller facility to avoid being hit by a major rent increase.
The Rocky Learning Centre, which operates in a provincial building in downtown Rocky Mountain House and offers the government’s Community Adult Learning Program, will be affected when the Non-Government User Space Use policy gradually comes into effect.
With this policy, nonprofit organizations will no longer be able to enter into no-cost lease at government buildings.
Jana Thomson, Rocky Learning Centre executive director, said it would cost $82,000 a year to rent the space they have been renting.
“We’re funded by Advanced Education and that ($82,000) is more than half of our grant we receive,” said Thomson.
“Our options are raise the costs of our programs to our learners, which goes directly against our mandate and our funding, or layoff staff. The other option is we move out of the building and find a renter or landlord that is willing to work with us to create an affordable learning space.”
Thomson said she expects the Rocky Learning Centre to move to a much smaller space.
“We’re forced to reduce our space by an incredible amount – at least half – to bring it to that $30,000 or $40,000 a year price range. That still would mean we have to lose a staff member or two,” she said.
“It’s really frustrating. Our options are pretty much downsize or move and either way we’ll lose staff. We actually did have a staff member retire, so that position has just not been replaced.”
Thomson said the nonprofit received notice from the government about this policy’s gradual implementation in March.
Rocky Learning Centre, along with the 12 other rural organizations offering the Community Adult Learning Program, sent a letter to Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda to ask him to reconsider the policy.
Haydn Place, office of the Minister of Infrastructure press secretary, said prior to this policy, “non-government users of government space were paying (often significantly) disparate lease rates.”
“To ensure that surplus government owned and administered space is leased in an equitable and consistent manner, Alberta Infrastructure developed a Non-Government User Policy which is being implemented gradually,” said Place.
“This policy ensures there is a transparent process for determining who gets leased space and the lease rates for different types of users.”
While there were nonprofit organizations in no-cost leases, there were also organizations paying market-value rent, said Place.
The Community Adult Learning Program is offered through 100 organizations across the province, 13 of which housed in government buildings are impacted by this policy change, Place noted.
“The 13 impacted organizations are being offered a cost-recovery lease, the lowest cost lease available under the new policy,” said Place.
“Alberta Infrastructure staff are working to enable the 13 impacted organizations time to reduce their building footprint. In two cases, lease costs were actually reduced for these organizations.”
Thomson said some of the other rural nonprofit organizations offering the Community Adult Learning Program are in an even more difficult position.
“There are other locations where there is no where else in the community they can go. There’s no where else,” she said.