If you’re in the market to rent a one or two-bedroom apartment in Calgary and work full-time for minimum wage, you may be out of luck.
That’s according to the latest report from Policy Alternative, which suggest that minimum wage workers are unable to afford a one or two-bedroom apartment in all 44 of Calgary’s neighbourhoods.
Minimum wage is currently pegged at $15 an hour in Alberta, but a Policy Alternatives study shows the average Calgarian would need to make $20.98 an hour to afford a one-bedroom place or $26.97 an hour to afford a two-bedroom place.
The report looks at what’s called the 'rental wage', which is the hourly wage a full-time worker must make to be able to rent an average two-bedroom apartment using no more than 30 per cent of their income.
For minimum wage workers in Calgary, those stats correlate to working 56 hours a week to afford rent on a one-bedroom unit or working 72 hours a week to afford rent on a two-bedroom apartment.
According to the report, the two largest rental neighbourhoods of Mission/Beltline and Downtown/Eau Claire are the most expensive, with two-bedroom rental wages of $32 an hour and $31 an hour respectively.
Renters like Nicole Ragguette of Calgary know all too well how challenging it can be to make the rent on a low income. The self-employed cleaning business owner lived in subsidized housing run by the Calgary Housing Company for a decade, and just moved her family into a home on the open rental market this spring.
"We had moments where we had a choice," said Ragguette. "Are we going to buy milk or are we going to buy toilet paper? Steak or ground beef? Are we going to guy one package of ground beef or can we afford to buy three at this time?"
Ragguette would like to see some form of rent control to help low-income earners.
The councillor for the Beltline area, Evan Woolley, says both the province and the federal government need to continue to invest in more affordable housing projects. He adds that the City of Calgary should follow suit by investing in more supply.
“We have thousands of units in the city with development permits,” said Woolley. “The sooner we can get those projects into construction the better that market will become in terms of affordability in rental units and condo units, but this remains a significant challenge.”
The challenge can be quite frustrating for those in lower incomes as even some of the cheapest places to rent require Calgarians to make more than minimum wage.
Policy Alternatives says the least expensive place for a Calgarian to rent a two-bedroom apartment is found in a swath of largely rural areas on the outskirts of the city. Apartments in those locations would still require a full-time wage of $18 an hour to comfortably pay the rent.
Calgarians are not alone in their struggle to make ends meet in the rental market.
Policy Alternatives estimates that about a third of Canadian households (4.7 million families) are faced with an affordability crisis.
The average rental wage across all of Canada is $22.40 an hour for a two-bedroom apartment.
In some cities, the rental wage is much higher with the most expensive being in Vancouver where workers would need to make $35.43 an hour to rent the average two-bedroom place.
Toronto ranks second at $33.70 an hour, while Victoria ranks third at $28.47.
Calgary’s rental wage for a two-bedroom place is ranked fourth most expensive in Canada.
To see the full report published by Policy Alternatives, click HERE.