Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Rent Controls & Presumption

Nation, don't for a second think that I've consciously switched to a "once weekly, on Wednesday" writing schedule. As my righteous dander gets raised, more will be coming, with higher frequency. :)

I wanted to talk today about the Rent Control debate that has been raging across the province for the past month. In the past week or 2 it has been supplanted, to some degree, by the spat between Bronco and Ed over funding for municipalities. But, if you listen very carefully, you can still hear the opposition parties crying foul over the lack of Rent Controls in this province.

The only voices crying out louder than the opposition parties themselves are the self-righteous hounds of the main-stream media... self-appointed "defenders of the people", these columnists write about how Ed is stupid, Ray Danyluk is a clueless bumpkin, and how the entire cabinet looks like it was plucked off the streets of Mayberry.

THIS is the level to which the debate of ideas has been debased in today's media?

Look, full disclosure here: I'm a renter. In Calgary. I don't WANT to be a renter - I want to be a home-owner. But, unless I start getting 3 or 4 thousand hits per day on the Google Ads to the right of this column, that's not going to happen anytime soon, in Calgary. Maybe not in Alberta, for that matter. So I rent. From a "mega-landlord". I'm in an apartment slightly under 900 square feet. It's okay - it has it's problems, but so does every home - and I pay a shade over $1000 per month for the place. It JUST fits into my budget. If the landlord decides to raise the rent by $500 per month next year, will I have to move? Absolutely. Am I worried about it? Sure I am.

But, Henry and Martha Albertan don't hear my story. They don't hear it, because the same columnists who think Ray Danyluk's beard is a valid point of discussion on the housing issue are repeating the same mantra over and over again, like a Hari Krishna with OCD - "Tory's don't care about rent controls, because Tory's aren't renters."

At least 40 of the people I spoke with at the PC AGM in May were Tory party members, and renters. There goes that theory. But, god forbid that the media or opposition actually research their assertions!

"Tories are Tories because they have lots of money. And since it's a trueism that all Tories are well-off, it must stand to reason that no Tories are renters. In fact, a lot of them are probably land-lords."

"Makes sense to me... run with it. Those are all 100% fact, no need to check the figures."

I think some level of rent regulation would be a good thing. To be honest, I think we'll see it brought in, by a Stelmach government, within the next year. The market just isn't sustainable as it is, without some pressure to cool it off in a controlled fashion. The fact that it's not being brought in RIGHT THIS SECOND, as the NDP and Liberals want, is what people are seeing. They think that nothing's happening, because they SEE nothing happening. But this is a different government, and a different Premier. You're not going to see big, flashy presentations of thin, drawn-up-on-the-back-of-a-cocktail-napkin policies. You're going to see methodical, controlled and responsible governance. It's not sexy, but it's what we need. There's enough hype in Alberta as-is - we don't need more from our government.

A lot of these self-important media "personalities" are rubbing their hands together, eagerly anticipating the death of the PC Association of Alberta under Ed Stelmach. What they forget, though, is that the Alberta PC's have been one of the most impressive political machines in the world for over 30 years... a few pretentious writers and some precocious, spiteful children (Yes, YAPCA, that would be you) aren't going to bring all that down without a TONNE of help.

Does the Enlightened Savage support Rent Controls? Yes, he does. But he also supports the building of affordable housing. And since it takes longer to build a home than it does to sign an executive order capping rent increases, I say let's use the plans the government has put in place, get those living spaces on the drawing board, and THEN we can squabble about how much Boardwalk, Morguard, and Joe Smith who rents out his basement are allowed to "gouge" us renters. Because once those spaces are built, if Boardwalk tries to raise rent by 75%, guess where their renters will go? That's right - the newly-finished, affordable housing. And Boardwalk will just be out the rent on those spaces completely. Now THAT is the best cap of all - the one that businesses have to put on themselves because of market forces and common sense. Because no tax dollars go to enforcing it.

- ES


Anonymous said...

Great post. Now if we could get you on part-time as a staff writer for the Calgary Herald, we may be able to navigate out of the sheer lunacy that prevails in the current urban (read: Edmonton/Calgary) media.

Your point about the level to which the media coverage has fallen is spot on. As someone who has lived in both urban and rural locales, I am particularly peeved at the way certain newspaper columnists are getting away with what amounts to bigotry. The idea that a cabinet comprised with a larger proportion of so-called "rural" MLAs cannot possibly UNDERSTAND Calgary or Edmonton is ridiculous. For one, most rural people have more than a passing exposure to city life. As a young adult you generally move there to go to post-secondary training. And even if you don't pursue further education, you enter the urban centre any time you need to purchase anything but your regular groceries. I think it is a far more backable assertion to say that urban people have no concept of life outside a major city, with the lack of social supports (EMS, public transit) that accompanies it.

So what the media is really saying is that people who choose to live outside Edmonton or Calgary are dumb. Apparently, magically, your IQ drops if you leave the city limits of those two main population centres. As an aside, it is funny how Red Deer, Med Hat, Leth. etc are lumped in as rural, not too mention expensive bedroom communities such as Sherwood Park, St. Albert and Bragg Creek.

If I was to say that anyone of a certain race, sexual orientation, gender, etc. was less competent to be in cabinet, I would (rightly) be labelled a bigot of some sort. But it appears that discrimination by location is quite all right, thank you very much.

If I do decide at some point to move outside of Calgary or Edmonton, I better get my affairs in order, since I will presumably be seized with some sort of serious cognitive failure, and quickly degenerate into a rubber-boot wearing, straw-chomping luddite (a beard is apparently optional)

RE: cities. What is to understand? We are not talking Quantum Physics here. The City of ___ (insert name here) is big, getting bigger, and needs money to support growth. The fact that more money is available (it is growing every year, even before adding the "new" money for municipalities delivered by the Premier) appears to be lost on some. What is also missing, is the open acknowledgement, particularly by one big-city mayor, that the province totally or predominantly finances some infrastructure that primarily benefits the municipality, yet is not included in provincial-municipal transfers (hint: Deerfoot is Highway 2 folks).

Anonymous said...

Yes another well thought out and well presented issues based post get better every week!

I once again see myself agreeing.

I clicked through on all your ads...hope it helps.

Allie Wojtaszek said...

I'm clicking on your ads too!

But I wanted to tell you that the government has been busy - and as such Boardwalk reversed my rent increase! Turns out the new laws that the Premier and his team are putting into place only allows for one rent increase per every 365 days... so I am safe until Novemeber... ;-)