Calgary Drop-In Centre sees drop off in usage despite economic slump

The Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre (DI) says its most recent numbers show a decrease in the number of people staying at the shelter during the economic downturn, and that could be due to cheaper rents and a higher vacancy rate.

Lower rents and more vacancies helping former clients find homes, officials speculate

Melva Thomson, a client of the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre, says she's optimistic she will be able to find a home of her own now that rents are coming down. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

The Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre (DI)says its most recent numbers show a decrease in the number of people staying at the shelter during the economic downturn, and that could be due to cheaper rents and a higher vacancy rate.

Some landlords are offering incentives such as free deposits, a free month's rent — even free cable, says executive director Debbie Newman.

Newman says about 50 fewer people stay overnight at the DI — when compared to January of last year

"The 50? Those are the ones we call the low-hanging fruit that are going to be able to find accommodations or move to another province," she said.

It's not clear whether the drop off is a blip or part of a longer trend for the shelter, Newman says.

DI client Melva Thomson says since the downturn her housing search has become a lot easier.

"There's so much available, everybody's leaving this province in droves, especially this city. Rents have come down," she said.

Another contributing factor could be that homeowners who previously didn't need the money are now renting rooms in their homes, said DI spokesman Jordan Hamilton.

And the recent stretch of warm weather could also be playing a part, he said.

Calgary is a buyer's market

Alberta's recession has also created the conditions for a buyer's market in Calgary, with home listings up and sales and prices down, says Doug Hayden with EXP Realty.

"Patience is really the buzz word here and if you don't have time it will be price. You're going to have to come down to best price, best value. That's what's selling right now," he said when asked for his advice to sellers. 

Nationally, the average price of a Canadian home sold in January increased by 17 per cent to $470,297 compared to the same month a year ago, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association on Tuesday.

But hot markets in Toronto and Vancouver skew the picture. When B.C. and Ontario are excluded from the equation, prices declined in January in eight of the 26 biggest cities in Canada, including Calgary. And the average price of a Canadian home would have dropped by 0.3 per cent in January to $286,911.

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