When the price of oil fell in late 2014, the Board of the Drumheller Housing Administration (DHA) was ready. The group manages dozens of units all over town which provide housing to people who are low-income or cannot afford market rent. In late-October 2017, the Board held its AGM to review the previous year's financials and approve a budget for 2018.
Jay Garbutt is the Chairperson of DHA. He explained that the price of oil isn't the only factor that drives demand for social housing in Drumheller.
"Community housing always needs to be there for people who are receiving assistance or working as best they can to make ends meet but truly could not afford traditional rents."
In its latest budget, the Government of Alberta earmarked money for social housing across the province, but Garbutt says most of it was focused on helping cities. DHA has money set aside for future housing projects, but will need provincial money to build more units.
"Now, the only struggle is that it's never enough. The Board of DHA has been running Sandstone for the Town of Drumheller in a that has allowed us to put away reserves every year as part of our contract with them. As the years go by, we're building a bigger and bigger chest that will, hopefully, be the seed money for additional affordable housing."
There are two types of social housing in Drumheller. Community housing rents are capped at 30 per cent of occupants' income, while affordable housing rents at Sandstone are capped at a rate determined by the DHA Board, and are required to be a minimum of 10 per cent below market rate.
"We've actually seen rents in this community come down as the vacancy rates went up," explained Garbutt. "The Board of DHA has actually not raised the rent at Sandstone for over two years now, I believe."
In fact, Garbutt said the Board might need to decrease rents at Sandstone. In previous years, Sandstone rents were between 15-18 per cent below market value, but, because of falling rents, they are now only 10-13 per cent below market value.
Finally, Garbutt thanked the management body of Century 21, as well as the volunteers on the Board for their work in helping Drumheller keep its social housing programs.