AHL easing housing burden in booming Airdrie
The Government of Alberta announced on Feb. 7 that 1,600 Albertans have graduated from housing-first programs since 2009.
Locally, Airdrie Housing Ltd. (AHL) is helping approximately 200 people every month with rental units or through their rent supplement program, which helps residents with net incomes not $37,500 rent one-bedroom apartments at a reduced rate.
According to Shelley Sweet, managing director of AHL, two of their tenants graduated from receiving AHL assistance to take on market housing in 2012.
“We’ve had tenants in the past who have moved from our program into home ownership. So sometimes affordable housing is a place where people get a chance to rest until such time as their situation changes. They can take stock and know that they can afford the roof over their head,” explained Sweet.
“That’s so nice to see when that happens, but we also recognize that we do have some people in our program who will always need our program. We’re certainly doing our best to help those very vulnerable people.”
AHL is so important in Airdrie that there is a waitlist both for rental units and the rent supplement program.
In October, Airdrie City council voted to double AHL’s annual funding to $150,000.
According to Sweet it was needed as the City used the last of its three-year Municipal Block Funding in 2010.
“Since that time we have been utilizing that funding to purchase more (rental) units and we also have a rent-supplement program that we helped 85 families a month with a supplement of up to $300 a month to assist with rent,” said Sweet.
She added that unfortunately the Alberta department of housing and urban affairs was rolled into the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and that ministry does not provide operating grants for organizations such as AHL.
Sweet says that AHL has two types of one-bedroom units for renters; a one-bedroom apartment that rents for $690 per month and a one-bedroom condominium that rents for $850 per month, both considerably below market rate.
In those cases, AHL acts as the landlord in a sense.
We are sort of the conduit through which we handle all of the lease administration and the maintenance of our units,” said Sweet, adding the organization partners with Community Links, which does all of the assessments needed to ensure applicants qualify for the program.
Sweet added the Community Links partnership makes AHL more inclusive than a typical landlord relationship.
“Because of that partnership, Community Links is able to identify… other issues that might be affecting other tenants or clients of ours, so what you get is a more holistic level of service and people don’t fall through the cracks,” she said. “That is relatively unique to Airdrie and it’s a point of service that other people are looking to now.”
However, AHL can’t provide help with landlords who aren’t performing their duties. Sweet says that falls under Alberta’s Residential Tenancies Act.
In section 37 of the act it states that if a landlord commits a breach of the tenancy agreement or contravenes the act, the tenant may apply to the court for recovery of the damages, compensation for performing the landlord’s duties or termination of the tenancy agreement.
For more information on AHL, visit www.nrvcl.ab.ca