A look back at important housing and consumer topics in 2022, including household debt, rent increases and housing affordability.
If this year has taught us anything, housing and consumer law issues are more important than ever. We began the year hearing about soaring house prices throughout Canada. The combination of pandemic-related restrictions, (previously) low interest rates and desire for more space resulted in increased housing demand.
With the cost of living, rent and home ownership all becoming more expensive throughout the year, housing affordability remains an important issue for many. The combination of inflation and rapid interest rate hikes throughout the year affected many of you – regardless of whether you are a tenant, landlord, condo resident, homeowner, potential home buyer or consumer.
Through CPLEA’s work throughout the year, we also heard from (and revisited insights from) community stakeholders, resource users and experts about the top housing and consumer law developments.
Here is a roundup of highlights throughout the year:
Increasing household debt and the legal issues that come with it
In CPLEA’s Got Debt? webinar (available on our CPLEA TV YouTube page) earlier this year, experts from Money Mentors and The Alberta Debtor Support Project discussed common debt problems and how to get out of consumer debt. Speaking of consumer debt, we also covered the gaining popularity of buy now pay later (BNPL) with Canadian consumers.
Federal legislative and policy developments on housing affordability
The Budget 2022 in the spring unveiled policy directions and steps towards housing affordability. The Federal government announced many initiatives. This included supporting Rent-to-Own projects, developing a Home Buyers’ Bill of Rights, providing direct financial support to Canadians in housing need, and temporarily banning non-Canadian residential property purchases.
Anecdotally and in news reports, we heard that landlords raised rent quite significantly this year. For example, there are reports that average rent in Calgary went up 21 to 29% year over year. Starting in April 2022, rent increases became the number one accessed topic across all CPLEA’s housing law resources. We continue to receive many inquiries from landlords and tenants about the law around rent increases.
So, what does the legislation say? The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) is legislation governing the relationship between most landlords and tenants in Alberta. However, it doesn’t say anything about how much landlords can increase rent. But there are limits in the RTA on how often landlords can increase rent and also rent increase notice requirements. For more information, visit our resource on Rent Increases.
That said, a few lawyers have suggested for many years now that there may be a limit to rent increases in economic eviction situations – for more insight, refer to Constraining a Landlord’s Ability to Terminate a Residential Tenancy by Raising the Rent by Jonnette Watson Hamilton (ABlawg) and Economic Evictions in a Residential Tenancy by Tim Patterson (Access Review).
Escalation in conflict and challenges in various housing situations
We heard from our community stakeholders and resource users throughout the year about the general escalation in conflict and challenges in their housing situations. This includes landlords and tenants in rental housing and subsidized housing situations, as well as amongst condominium owners. From facilitating a workshop at the Alberta Public Housing Administrators’ Association in the fall, we also learned that Illegal activities, mental health/addiction problems and family violence issues are amongst the top issues that the subsidized housing sector is concerned about.
Servicing debt in a cooling housing market and softening economy … and foreshadowing of foreclosures?
As we near the end of the year, you may have heard reports of a cooling housing market and fears about an economic downturn. It was also widely reported this year that Canadians are in an increasingly tight spot with servicing consumer and mortgage debt.
So, what happens when people struggle to service debt in a softening economy and housing market? Judith Hanebury’s 2020 LawNow article, Foreclosures in Alberta: The return of the ’80s?, is as relevant as ever in foreshadowing what is likely to happen in such situations. You can also find resources on how to get out of debt (and more) on CPLEA’s new money and debt page.
Year-end federal housing affordability initiatives
Towards year-end, we heard about the realization of some of the Federal government’s housing affordability initiatives. For example:
- As of December 12, 2022, low-income renters in Canada can access the Canada Housing Benefit Top-Up, a one-time $500 payment. Applications are only open until March 31, 2023. More information on the benefit is available on the Canada Revenue Agency website.
- The Federal Government passed the Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act, which will come into force on January 1, 2023. The Act imposes a two-year ban on non-Canadians in buying all types of residential property. This includes detached houses, semi-detached houses, condominium units, rowhouse units and more.
Looking forward to 2023
Now that concludes another year for housing and consumer issues from CPLEA’s perspective. We look forward to sharing additional insights and developing new resources in 2023 on issues that are of interest to you. Have an idea for a potential resource need in these areas? Please let us know by e-mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The information in this article was correct at time of publishing. The law may have changed since then. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of LawNow or the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta.
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