Welcome to part one of the Strathmore Housing Crisis series. This mini-series documents several stories told by Strathmore and area community members detailing many aspects and perspectives around Strathmore and area's current housing situation.
Strathmore's residents have suffered from a housing crisis for several years, but it appears things are at a breaking point for several community members who can't keep up with constantly increasing rent prices. Even if the rent isn't a huge problem, simply finding a place to live has seemed like a near impossibility with how little availability there is.
These factors have forced some residents to abandon a house or apartment entirely, as Morgan Clark and her fiancé have been living in a trailer at the campground since April. Despite a sizable budget of around $1500 a month with the flexibility to go even higher, Clark says there is just nothing available for a young couple with a dog.
"It's more difficult when people are asking $1800, $1900, $2000, plus they want pet fee, plus they want the down payment, damage deposit, right? It's hard to come up with that kind of a cost up-front all at once," Clark said.
Financially, the campground is a feasible option, as Clark explained it's around $750-800 a month to stay at a nicer campground, plus around $2500 for a decent used trailer. However, with winter coming up she's desperate to find a place to live to avoid the cold, or possibly start winterizing her trailer in the event nothing comes up.
Clark's struggles to find an affordable place to live isn't due to a lack of effort, as Clark said she's been looking anywhere within an hour radius, including Okotoks, Airdrie, Cochrane, and more.
"There's nothing, even the most basic of things... you're either living with other people and then you're still paying ridiculous amounts to live with other people," Clark said.
Even when Clark finally finds a potential place for rent, she says the advertisements can be extremely misleading to the point that she can't take it, despite the fact both she and her fiancé would be willing to take pretty much anything.
"Either they've done up the pictures in a way that doesn't represent accurately what it looks like, or they brought you in thinking one thing and then when you go take a look at the contracts the price is completely different."
It's not just young couples struggling, as Samantha Ricketts and her family of six and two dogs will also soon be living at the campground. Unlike Clark, Ricketts's family doesn't have a trailer, so they're staying inside a large tent.
"We're trying to figure out how we do one month at least. I've been looking at the temperatures of October from last year and thinking we really need to have a place by October 1. We're just going small bits by really small bits because it seems a little overwhelming when I try to make a bigger picture plan," Ricketts said.
"I'm trying to plan on how we're going to eat without cooking or a refrigerator," Ricketts is currently living in the basement of a family friend's house, but that friend is now selling that house so the Ricketts family is preparing to move to the campground by September 5 at the latest.
Prior to that, she explained her most recent rental was $2200 a month for a three-bedroom place in Lakewood, so her budget is anywhere in that range. However, she understands that prices have been increasing so that may not be feasible anymore, so she says she would be willing to make it work with a two-bedroom house as well. Unfortunately, that hasn't worked for her so far, as she said she's been told her family is too big for a two-bedroom house so they can't be accepted. This is on top of her two dogs, which has been another roadblock.
"Either we have to give the dogs up or we do what we're doing, there's no way to keep them. Like the rules on them that you have to have one dog or it has to be under 36 kilograms or you have to pay $500 as a deposit, which is insane," Ricketts said.
Even if they were to find an available rental, Ricketts worries about the financial feasibility of that long term. Saying she feels like they would only be delaying inevitable homelessness with the ridiculous rent prices, Ricketts has considered camping in the winter potentially to try and save enough money to put a down payment on purchasing a house. However, as she mentioned before she's just trying to take it one small step at a time before worrying about what the future holds.
Ricketts and Clark aren't alone in this battle, as many other community members said on Facebook they are also living in trailers, so the competition for a place to live is as fierce as ever. The severe supply shortage combined with incredible demand could mean this problem doesn't have an immediate solution in sight, although potential developments such as a new seniors' lodge or new townhouses could be the type of relief Strathmore needs.
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