In all honesty, “Omicron conundrum” is a better headline than a description of the challenges we all face in 2022, landlords and renters alike.

It’s some rhythmic shorthand for “the pressures of the pandemic, and it will continue to find and seep through the cracks in our social safety net.”

The virus makes the difficult things in our lives more difficult and creates new difficulties to spread our worries around. One of the longstanding worries is paying rent, which for a few Yellowknifers who would talk about it last week and probably many others is going to cost more. In one case, it looks like it’s going to be about $100 more per month – the equivalent of between half and all of one of the other bills.

For another tenant in the city who asked to speak without being identified, the increase is 16.6 per cent, or $300 every month. Who among us has room in the budget for a shock like that?

Granted, the people and companies who own the rental buildings are under pressure, too. Some of them are Yellowknifers, some are not, but all are subject to the regulatory regime in the Northwest Territories, which sadly does nothing to prevent an increase in the double-digit range, or any range.

Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson said he has constituents concerned about rent increases on this scale, but without rent controls, there is “no remedy.”

After two years of pandemic economics, there can only be so much time left before the other shoe drops. Prices are going up, from groceries to fuel (which are related). Inflation has been a hot topic as the opposition Conservatives have grilled Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during Question Period on when it will end.

It’s fertile ground for a magisterial roast. After the most recent federal election, it’s clear most Canadians are content to let a left-leaning party guide us through the pandemic with a less-than-steely eye on the budget. But eventually, the country has to find its feet again and the money has to come from somewhere.

There’s no easy answer. But one thing that’s a no-brainer is that in a place like Yellowknife, where there is a significant population of vulnerable people, housing challenged and working poor and where such a significant proportion of the rental stock is owned by one publicly-traded company that issues dividends (payments based on earnings) to its shareholders every month, there should be some protection for the people.

Johnson suggests that more units and more owners to compete for tenants would help correct the problem. We would humbly suggest that a regulatory regime with teeth that is capable of limiting rent increases to some reasonable facsimile of inflation would probably be needed, too, in order to land that plane.

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  1. “Something to think about in regard to affordable housing.”
    This is only the beginning of higher rents and less quality housing in our city. Yes, prices are rising due to everything that has happened in businesses due to Covid.
    When the pandemic lifts in the future all the tourists will return again. Yes, it will bring money back to the city but with the new bylaw adopted by the city regarding short term stays for tourists; licensed at 100 dollars a pop and with few guidelines about where they can be, the quality they will have to maintain, or answer to will be far less than B&B had to meet in the past. I understand there are no limits on the number of licenses available in the city and that will be just the start of it all. Available housing will be purchased for short-term rentals, spare rooms will be rented out everywhere, full homes will be purchased for it. Places to live of quality and quantity will be harder to find and rent and purchase prices will rise.
    I will say it again and again! A short-term rental like in other cities should be for a special event when accommodation is not available to everyone. It also should not be allowed all year long. How does one regulate that?
    A B&B does take in tourists and other guests in the city for other reasons as well but the regulations until recently were usually higher, and standards and health regulations were greater as required by law. It is like our city wants quantity, not quality when it comes to housing tourists.
    I am not sure how much thought was given to the housing market and the effect it will have on it when the short-term accommodation by law was passed. I do know that city hall struggled with it for more than seven years.
    I have to question if our city is prepared for the shortages this bylaw will create and what they will do when the housing that offers some quality is all bought up, to accommodate it. After all, let’s face it get enough tourists guests will help the economy of our city and we want them back. But with fewer rules and regulations everyone can participate.
    With fewer regulations and stipulations, the tourism experience will be less regulated and the accommodation experience here in many cases will be left wanting. Those who need affordable quality housing will suffer to attain what is left for them and affordable. Short Term rentals can afford to take the higher-end properties, short-term rentals with few restrictions opens the door for more properties to be affected by this bylaw. At some point only less, desirable properties will be on the market at a price one can afford.