Amid Housing Crisis, Calgarians Turn to Motels and Campgrounds for Shelter

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A number of motels in Calgary offer monthly rates, an option some are turning to amid an ongoing rental shortage in the city. (Joel Dryden/CBC)

In response to the escalating housing crisis in Calgary, a growing number of residents are seeking unconventional accommodations, turning to motels and campgrounds as more affordable housing alternatives, according to CBC News.

Motels as Long-Term Residences

On the bustling strip of 16th Avenue N.W. in northwest Calgary, motels traditionally catering to transient guests are now hosting residents for months, and in some cases, years. Faced with a severe shortage of affordable rental options, many have found refuge in these low-cost hotels and lodges. One resident, Ashley Halas, 39, has been living in a motel with her partner and pets for over a year, struggling to find affordable, pet-friendly housing.

Campgrounds as Winter Homes

The trend extends to campgrounds as well. The Strathmore and District Agricultural Society’s campground, located 40 kilometres east of Calgary, is fully booked for the winter with 30 full hookup spots occupied. Ryan Schmidt, head of the society, noted, “It’s not normal,” acknowledging the lack of options forcing people to adapt to living in campgrounds.

Meaghon Reid with Vibrant Communities Calgary says there’s a lot of ‘desperation and panic’ among those looking for rentals in the current market, even for those with a budget that would have been sufficient two years ago. (Joel Dryden/CBC)

A Dire Housing Situation in Calgary

Calgary’s housing crisis is evident in the statistics: nearly one-fifth of households could not afford their housing in 2021, and the situation is expected to worsen in 2023. A report by the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy indicated that over 115,000 Calgarians are at high risk of homelessness. The city’s rental vacancy rates have reached near-decade lows, exacerbating the problem.

Living Conditions and Community Formation

Residents like Halas have adapted to motel living, forming small communities within these spaces. Despite the challenges of living simply and the transient nature of their neighbors, many find a semblance of normalcy and even camaraderie. Rates for long-term tenants vary, with one resident paying around $1,300 per month.

Responses from Advocacy Groups

Meaghon Reid, executive director of the anti-poverty group Vibrant Communities Calgary, expressed concern over the lack of data on the number of people living in such conditions. She emphasized the critical nature of the housing crisis, with the city’s rental vacancy rate at around two percent.