At-risk renters shut out in tight market
Agencies that help homeless and low-income people say their clients face discrimination
As the rental market gets tight again in Calgary social agencies say discrimination against some prospective renters is a growing concern.
Robert England has a bachelor apartment now but he said after his long search, he became used to rejection.
"Depressing. It was just unbelievable. I never thought I had a chance."
England was a client of the Alex, a community health care agency that caters to at-risk, low-income, homeless and immigrant Calgarians.
England’s case worker at the Alex, Raymond Bwititi, said he can often tell by a landlord's body language that his clients are going to be rejected as renters.
"I've got one client, we've been to over six places and, you know, nothing has come up," Bwititi said.
Lisa Garrisen, a program director at the Alex, said many of the agency’s clients just cannot compete in a tight rental market.
"I think it's discouraging. They're already starting out kind of behind everyone else and so a rejection from a landlord can feel super discouraging," she said.
"So that's kind of tough, you know, watching them get turned down or declined more than a couple of times."
According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the apartment vacancy rate in Calgary dropped to 1.3 per cent in October. The average rate in 35 major urban markets was 2.6 per cent.
YWCA official Cynthia Wild said her clients now routinely spend twice as long in temporary housing as used to be the case.
"When a spot comes up there is just too high of a demand for that spot," she said.
And it's usually more expensive than last year, she added.
The CMHC lists Calgary as the third most expensive place in the country to rent, averaging $1,150 per month.