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Photo by Ramiro Bustamante Torres

Students and protesters call on city councillors to pass affordable housing measures 

By Eula Mengullo, September 15 2023—

On Sept. 14, the University of Calgary’s Students’ Union (SU) — along with other groups — gathered outside City Hall to pressure city councillors to vote and pass the Housing and Affordability Taskforce recommendation package that would build affordable housing for students and Calgarians. 

Photo by Ramiro Bustamante Torres

SU Vice-President External Mateusz Salmassi emphasized that the housing crisis must be addressed if the City of Calgary wants to continue attracting students. 

“Right now city council is going to be voting on a whole package of recommendations that will result in the building of affordable housing here in Calgary,” explained Salmassi.

“The problem is that some councillors are still looking to vote ‘no’ despite the fact that we’re in a housing emergency,” he said. “Quite frankly, the city council loves to talk about students as being the economic future of the city, but if hundreds of students who are the economic future show up, rally and put pressure on the city council to vote ‘yes’ to all these recommendations, then we can finally start to see solutions to the housing crisis.”

For councillors that remain reluctant to support the affordable housing recommendations, Salmassi acknowledged that blanket solutions will no longer suffice and the problem must be addressed at its core. 

“You can throw as much tax payer money as you want into subsidies to build housing, but if you don’t change the regulations that actually prevent that housing from being built, were not gonna see that solution,” he said.

“Students are at a breaking point and if the city wants the next generation of nurses, doctors, lawyers, engineers to stay in the City of Calgary, they’re gonna need to invest in housing for all students and all Calgarians.”

Photo by Ramiro Bustamante Torres

Echoing the same sentiment, student Keely O’Neill shared their own experience regarding the urgency that students are facing in terms of finding affordable housing accommodations. 

“My roommate and I had a hard time finding an apartment this year and we didn’t find anything until two weeks before the semester started. Housing on campus is already full and there are still students who don’t have housing,” said O’Neill.

“We have students who are homeless, in general, we have people in the city who are homeless right now and the city has been really complacent, has not been doing anything about how rent has been skyrocketing, I’m paying hundreds more this year for the same quality of living.” 

“Its absolutely disgusting, the lack of rent control and the lack of regulations on housing and housing affordability, I’m here today because city council needs to vote ‘yes’ and make housing more affordable for all Calgarians,” she said.

The SU and U of C students were joined by other groups as well as many Calgarians who were collectively calling for affordable housing measures to be passed. 

In attendance in support of the Housing and Affordable Taskforce recommendations were Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Varsity Dr. Luanne Metz and Alberta New Democratic Party Housing Critic Janis Irwin.

“We are in a housing crisis and Calgarians really want to see all orders of government take this crisis seriously,” said Irwin. “Luanne and our entire team are proud to be here to support the City of Calgary.”

“But they can’t do it alone, they need support from the province, we see the federal government is putting some pressure on, but the missing piece there is the United Conservative Party,” Irwin continued.

As a Varsity MLA, Dr. Metz recognize the large number of students that reside in her constituency. 

“I represent the students as well and its critical that we create a safe learning environment and people are not safe when they’re living in their cars or living on the street,” said Dr. Metz. “And so we need to do that and we need our provincial government to step up and support housing for students in Calgary.”

“This is just one more piece of the equality of life that we’re imposing on our students both domestic and international, and we need to act on it, not just talk about it,” she concluded. 

On Tuesday, Sept. 19 at 4 p.m. a Student Housing Town Hall will be hosted at the University of Calgary. The event is open to anyone impacted by the housing crisis.

For more updates and information regarding the SU’s advocacy on affordable housing, visit their website.

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