Rising costs and rents

Photo by Unison for Generations 50+

Last week CBC Radio called me and asked if I would interview how the housing crisis was affecting seniors.

Sadly, the short answer is it is affecting seniors in a significant way. The city of Calgary tells us over 81,000 Calgary Households need affordable housing. The number of households requiring affordable housing is expected to increase to 100,000 by 2026.

Last week I attended a conference at which Laura Tamblyn Watts, CEO of CanAge was a keynote speaker.
Laura described that she was frustrated and tired of hearing people say we have a growing senior population. They say this as if it were a new thing — something that we could not have predicted. We have known we would have a large population of older adults at this time, since World War 2.

Anyone working in the Seniors Serving Sector for the last few decades has known that Housing has been an issue for older adults and that the problem would get worse.

Our Seniors Support program in Calgary provides several services, but one of the services they offer is helping seniors who need housing to find it. Last year our team helped 852 older adults to find housing.
As of last month (October), we had already helped 1,044.

This is a 22 per cent increase in the number of seniors served year to date and we are anticipating it will be a 150 per cent increase by year-end.

The Housing Crisis is compounded with the rise in inflation.

Increases in the cost of groceries, gas and utilities mean that seniors living on fixed incomes can’t afford everything they need to survive. Twenty percent of seniors who have a mortgage are cutting back on spending on food or medications. Many older adults who come in to see us say that a 5 per cent increase in their mortgage equates to a $300 or $400 increase in expenses.

If you are on a fixed income and you are renting you may be in even more trouble.

It is not uncommon for us to hear members exclaim that their rent just went up $500 to $900 a month.
As of this week, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Calgary is $1700. If you have lived in Canada most of your adult life and you have been employed full-time most of your life this is about the amount, you will be eligible for in your OAS benefits and your CPP combined.

Unfortunately, many Albertans rely mainly on their government pensions and if you rent, you don’t have a lot of money left over for food and utilities.

We hear about housing projects underway, but today as we are helping seniors to get onto waiting lists for affordable housing, we are being told the waiting lists are 6 to 8 months long. Inflation and Housing are becoming drivers in growing Senior Food Insecurity.

Before 2020 our organization was not active in helping Seniors with food security challenges. Now the number of meals we provide seniors in Medicine Hat through our Meals on Wheels program grows each month.

In Calgary when we started food security programs in 2020, we started with free bread markets and a dozen or so older adults lining up to get some free bread, now each month we give away more than $22,000 worth of food across our various food security programs — and this amount of food is growing every quarter.

We couldn’t do any of this without our donors, members, and volunteers.

So, thank all of you for helping us to support older adults in Alberta.

If you know an older adult who is experiencing challenges because of the housing crisis, please have them call (403) 705-3246 to book an appointment our Seniors Support team will help them navigate this difficult time.