Rental subsidy should be reviewed
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 09, 2013 01:33 pm
Statistics used to determine income levels to qualify for rental subsidies in Okotoks are woefully inaccurate and these funds are too crucial to be taken lightly.
The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) collects data the provincial government uses to establish guidelines for rental subsidies in Alberta communities of more than 10,000 people.
However, it has come to light when gathering its data in Okotoks CMHC is considering merely a fraction of the town’s rental market.
As a result of its small sample size the threshold for qualifying for a rental subsidy in Okotoks is disturbingly low, especially when compared to other similar communities. For example, to qualify for a rental subsidy for a two-bedroom apartment in Okotoks one cannot have an annual income of more than $33,000. However, renters in communities such as Airdrie, Bragg Creek and Calgary can make up to $46,000 and potentially qualify for a provincial rental subsidy.
Why such disparity among communities within 50km of one another with similar characteristics?
This does not make any sense especially considering Okotoks is one of the fastest growing communities in Canada and regularly has a vacancy rate of zero meaning rentals are hard to come by and when they do become available landlords can demand higher rates.
According to the CMHC study, Okotoks’ vacancy rate at 6.3 per cent at an average rent at $970 for a two-bedroom apartment.
However, in collecting these statistics the CMHC polled only 112 units in Okotoks — a ridiculously low number of homes.
The stats only included apartments specifically built to be rented out and did not include basement suites, condos or even houses currently used as rentals.
If they did CMHC would see Okotoks’ vacancy rate is again near zero and the average rent for a two-bedroom unit is closer to $1,200 per month.
Western Wheel reporters did not have any difficulty tracking down an additional 80 rental units not included in the CMHC study and that is likely just a fraction of the rental units in Okotoks.
In a growing community where affordable housing is rare, rental subsidies can be crucial for youth, young families and seniors.
CMHC and the Province need to take rental data seriously. They need to review how the rental subsidy thresholds are determined starting with expanding its sample size to something more realistic because local families depend on it.