Skip to content

Cost of rent skyrocketing in Bonnyville

With rent in Bonnyville steadily increasing in recent years, some area residents have been expressing concerns over the high cost of accommodation in town, fearing they may not be able to keep a roof over their heads for much longer.

With rent in Bonnyville steadily increasing in recent years, some area residents have been expressing concerns over the high cost of accommodation in town, fearing they may not be able to keep a roof over their heads for much longer.

With most one and two bedroom apartments in Bonnyville demanding anywhere between $1,000 and $1,500 a month, individuals on mid to low incomes are finding it increasingly difficult to find affordable accommodations. A single mother living in Bonnyville, who wished to remain anonymous said she is currently living in her parent's basement with her three children until she can afford a two-bedroom apartment in the future.

“I have lived in Bonnyville for the past 30 years and have come to love the community. I had been living in low income housing for the past eight years, but I was informed in December that because I made too much money I would no longer qualify for the grants – I was very close to leaving the job and community I love so I could find a reasonable place to live with my children to give them the best life possible,” she said.

She aimed discontent at the way rental companies go about their business, saying it should be an absolute right for people to be able to afford suitable accommodation, especially when that person has a steady full-time job.

“It is insane the amounts people are asking for rent and heartbreaking that most rentals are geared towards out-of-towners renting just single rooms out for roughly $800 a month,” she said. “Rent is supposed to be 30 per cent of your wage, that is rarely the case in this town.”

Duva Realty Ltd. is one of the more prominent rental property owners in Bonnyville, with 17 buildings managed by the company, and owner Lee Ducharme said she feels the monthly rental fees are reflective of the current demand.

“There are a number of different things we consider when determining the price of accommodation in our buildings,” Ducharme said. “First of all, market demand. There are a lot of people in this town looking for accommodation and we don't have too many rooms open for (an extended period of time). Then we look at the type of tenants we have – usually it's workmen who are sometimes very hard on the building. People don't realize how much wear and tear goes on and how much painting we have to do. It all adds up.”

She added that because of the way the market fluctuates in Bonnyville, it's only natural that prices for accommodation rise, so that companies such as Duva can afford to renovate wherever possible.

“Bonnyville is a boom and bust town, that's a fact. When we're in a bust, everyone reduces their rents to unsustainable levels because there's nobody here that wants or needs accommodation,” Ducharme said. “When that happens we can't do anything to the buildings and it takes years for prices to go back up. I personally don't think (we're that expensive), I actually think our rental rates are lower than average.”

Duva offers three options for potential new residents: bachelor suites available for $895 a month, one-bedroom apartments for $995 and two bedroom apartments for $1095.

A local businessman, who wished to remain anonymous over fears of losing business in the future, said he was disgusted with the way rent is being handled in Bonnyville at the moment, questioning how people are supposed to live comfortable lives when landlords are upping their rent whenever they can.

“I've been here since 1988 and I've noticed a lot of changes here in that time,” he said. “We have a lot of fly-in workers here now and those are the people rental organizations target. How is a regular Bonnyville family ever supposed to get ahead though? How are we supposed to attract new families not working on the oil patch? It's just gone absurd. This isn't Bonnyville anymore, it's Greedville.”

He said it was proving difficult for a number of his employees to find suitable accommodation while working in town, and that it was starting to effect their performance and morality at work. He believes the high costs could be a factor in peoples' decision to move to Bonnyville or not.

“It's all well and good coming out and saying ‘yeah, we're an attractive place for workers to come for jobs' but then where are they all going to live? Because there aren't too many affordable options around here.”

Bonnyville Mayor Ernie Isley agreed with Ducharme about Bonnyville being a ‘boom and bust' town, but said it would be great both for the town and the public if more companies invested in rental properties in order to provide more competition for the town's current property owners.

“There is a tremendous need in this town for new apartments and new competition in the marketplace,” Isley said. “There's no denying that right now the market is a landlord's market. Rents are making them nothing but profit. There needs to be more space and more competition so we can pull the market to a reasonable level, so landlords make a more conservative return on investment rather than gauging residents.”

Isley said there are a number of projects ongoing in the town at the moment, with 36 new condominiums set to be available on 54 Ave. in the summer and a new housing complex which includes 18 apartments on 43 Ave. to follow shortly after. He said there is also land available for multi-family development on the northwest corner of Boavista, but it would likely be another year until that project goes ahead.

He said he felt current prices were probably in line with what workers on the oil patch were earning and that rental companies in town were disregarding potential residents not earning higher wages.

Cold Lake resident Randy McDonald, who owns multiple properties throughout the city, said he felt landlords weren't being treated fairly and people need to realize landlords aren't making a lot of money.

“I've heard a lot of people say us landlords are pocketing a lot of money right now (with prices as they are), but if I'm honest I'm pocketing an extra nothing. The only thing that's changed now from when I first invested in 1983 is my mortgage payments have gone down.”

McDonald said he acknowledges the fact that the price of accommodation has gone up drastically, but that's only because his costs have risen. Back in 2003, McDonald rented a one-bedroom apartment for $575 that today goes for $975 and he says the primary reason for the increase is the rising tax and utility bills, some of which he says have more than doubled.

“If this was such a wonderful, glorious business and all us landlords were making millions of dollars up here, surely somebody would come and build a giant rental complex, but you don't see that happening. Sure, people may look and say ‘wow, they're charging an arm and a leg' but that's because we're paying an arm and a leg,” McDonald said.

He feels the people concerned by the prices of accommodation have every right to feel aggrieved, but said at the end of the day the price is where it is because there are enough people out there willing to pay the price.

“People can look at this from one side and say everyone is unhappy but the truth is there are some excellent tenants out there who are more than willing to pay the going rate,” McDonald said. “And right now the going rate for a two-bedroom basement is $1,750, a one bedroom is the best part of $1,000. In fact, those are cheap. I'm sorry if that sounds extreme and expensive, but those are the rates.”

He said responsibility should ultimately lay with the government, saying it has the power to change things for the better.

“There are a number of things the government could do to help the situation,” McDonald said. “They could lower tax on my properties so I could provide cheaper rent. They could address the minimum wage issue so people earn $20 or $30 for a regular job and increase the price of donuts and other products so businesses don't lose money – that way everybody will have enough for their rent and our economy would keep on growing.”

For more information on the Alberta Tenancy Act, or for more information on renting in Alberta, visit:


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks