As part of our Best Neighbourhoods issue, back in August 2016, Avenue discussed a wide variety of issues that faced Edmonton as the city evolved into a more urban and walkable city.
At that time, one of the major issues facing downtown was the lack of larger suites for families, and age restrictions at some condo and rental properties that prevented children from living in them.
The Alberta government is now looking at changes to the Human Rights Act that would no longer allow landlords and condo boards to discriminate because of age. Existing buildings that are 55-plus would be allowed to continue, and existing buildings that have age restrictions will have a 15-year period that the government feels would allow owners, renters and landlords to adjust without massive shocks to the marketplace.
David Shepherd, the NDP MLA for Edmonton Centre said that in discussions with major stakeholders such as the Downtown Business Association, Economic Development Edmonton and the Katz Group, he heard the same message.
“That we have to increase our population downtown,” he said. “And, a big part of that is families.”
He said that Alberta, as the youngest province in Alberta by average age of residents, “needs to open up more opportunities” for those twenty and thirty somethings to put down their roots in urban areas, and not feel like they’re pushed away when the young couples become young families.
Alberta is the only province left in Canada that allows landlords and condo boards to discriminate by age. And a recent court challenge has already tied the government’s hands in some respects. Basically, allowing age discrimination was putting Alberta on the wrong side of the Charter.
“Alberta has been an outlier for some time; it is a human-rights question,” said Shepherd.
But, even with the age restrictions off, Shepherd doesn’t think we’ll see an explosion of families downtown. At least not right away. There still is a shortage of multi-bedroom units downtown. Most of the rental properties and condos, by their sizes, aren’t aimed at families. For example, if you are a single person living in a building filled with studio apartments, it’s not like the families are going to come to look and live in those spaces.