Lethbridge remains one of Canada’s most reasonably priced cities for renters.
As Canadians’ lifestyles continue to change, a national report shows more upper-income couples are choosing to rent a home rather than buying one.
And looking ahead, authors of the National Rent Report say price increases will be moderate in 2020.
“Lethbridge has remained an affordable city for renters this past year,” they observe.
Rents averaged $923 for a one-bedroom apartment or $1,051 for two bedrooms, they report.
That placed Lethbridge in 30th place in the Rentals.ca and Bullpen Research and Consulting list of 34 mid-sized or larger Canadian cities. Just one Alberta city, Lloydminster, was marginally lower.
Calgary placed 20th with rental rates averaging $1,179 or $1,408, compared to the 2019 national urban average of $1,918 per month. Nationally, the report shows, rents increased more than nine per cent over the year.
Toronto remains the most expensive city for one-bedroom suites, at $2,314 this year, while it says Vancouver has the most pricey market for two-bedroom units at $3,058 on average — nearly three times the Lethbridge rate.
In Alberta, meanwhile, the survey shows rental rates fell in Calgary, Red Deer, Edmonton and Fort McMurray, declining from one to nine per cent over the year. Regina and Saskatoon recorded price drops as well.
The year-end figures are based on asking prices listed on the Rentals.ca website and include single-family dwellings, duplex units and basement suites as well as apartment, townhouse and condominium rental units.
Rentals.ca and the Bullpen residential real estate advisory firm predict an average three-per-cent rent increase over 2020 — though obviously that will vary from one market to the next.
At the same time, their report says more rental properties are being built across Canada, responding to shortages created by mortgage “stress tests” and other economic factors facing would-be home buyers.
Integrated court services makes impact
It’s been over a year since a Lethbridge man walked into a westside convenience store and locked the lone, terrified clerk in a room at the back of the building.
It was early, about 4:30 a.m., when the spaced-out man — we’ll call him Steve — walked into the 7-Eleven in the 600 block of Columbia Boulevard West and began screaming at the female clerk. He grabbed items off the shelves and threw them around the store and chased the clerk to a room in the rear of the building, where he confined her for some time. Fortunately the woman, although extremely shaken, was not injured.
When police arrived the highly agitated man was still at the store and appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The suspect refused to comply with orders, but after a brief standoff with police he was finally arrested. The enraged man continued to scream, however, and back at the police station he kicked and struggled with officers.
That was in November 2018 and the matter is still before the court. But before you blame judges, Crown prosecutors and lawyers for the wheels of justice turning painfully slow, keep on reading.
The story above is not an unfamiliar one in Lethbridge. Many of the crimes committed in the city are driven by drug addiction; by addicts desperately looking for their next fix. Occasionally, an addict who has hit rock bottom decides to change and begins a long, difficult journey to kick the habit.
It’s that very journey Steve is on now, but it’s one he can’t travel alone, and that’s where Lethbridge Integrated Services Court enters the picture. The court helps offenders begin a lengthy process to kick their addictions, accept responsibility for their actions, right their wrongs, and live productive, not destructive, lives.
The court doesn’t give offenders a get-out-of-jail-free card, although successful completion of the program will very likely influence the final sentence.
Lakes unsafe for skating
For southern Alberta youngsters, a new pair skates may have topped their Christmas wish list.
In Lethbridge, officials suggest they try them out at one of the city’s indoor ice rinks — because none of the outdoor locations are safe.
Parks staff members who check lakes and ponds suitable for skating warn the ice is still too thin for skating safely. Lethbridge weather has remained too warm for sufficient ice formation.
Despite that, children were seen skating on several lakes over the weekend.
Henderson Lake has been cleared for skating for generations, and Nicholas Sheran Lake has also become a popular spot since it was created as the first westside neighbourhoods were being developed.
More recently, Chinook Lake was built as part of the Uplands subdivision. And weather permitting, this winter will be the first for a designated skating area at the new Legacy Regional Park. Nearby — if there’s any snow — park visitors could also enjoy the new toboggan hill.
All four skating locations are monitored over the winter, allowing Lethbridge Parks officials to welcome skaters once the ice is considered safe.
New Year’s baby a boy
While the city was just waking up after ringing in the new year, Melissa Foley and Ryan Mueller were in Chinook Regional Hospital, welcoming the first baby born in Lethbridge for 2020.
Daxton Matthew Mueller was born a happy and healthy baby on Jan. 1 at 6:47 a.m., weighing in at six pounds, three ounces and was welcomed into the world by his mother, father, older brother and grand parents. As the original plan to have Daxton on Jan. 9 changed, they still didn’t think they would be having the first born child in Lethbridge.
“We came in at 6:30 a.m. and he was born about ten to eight, but they told us before the c-section that we might be the first baby of the year, and we figured there would be multiples before 7:30 in the morning, but apparently not,” says Foley.
“He was actually due on Jan. 9, we were supposed to have a c-section on the third, and Sunday we were called and they switched the date to the first.”
The Lethbridge couple, originally from Ontario, have always wanted to have two beautiful children in their lives, and since the passing of their first child, the dream has not faded. Now with Daxton welcomed into the world at the turn of the new decade, they are very excited and happy with healthy baby boy.
“We wanted two children, but this is our third, our first one we missed out on and so we wanted to have another one and now he is here,” says Mueller. “With everything that has happened over the course of three years, we never would have thought this would happen, but we are just grateful that he is here and he is alive.”
Lightly mingling with family members, Daxton has been quite relaxed and content with his new environments, as long as he is by his mother’s side and swaddled up in a blanket. The family says although he was a little on the small side, they are happy he is healthy and can’t wait to take him home.
“Daxton met our second child today and he sweetly touched him on the face and he is very excited for his little brother,” says Foley. “It is really exciting for us because it was never something we thought would happen unless we went into labour at midnight. He is a little small, but he is good and it will be nice to get him home and in his own environment.”
After a few days of recovery after Foley’s c-section, the Foley/Mueller family will be able to take their newborn son, and Lethbridge’s first-born child of 2020, home to raise and nurture.
Murder case to be on CBC
The successful investigation of a southern Alberta murder will be shown across the nation this month.
A new episode of “The Detectives,” broadcast Thursday evenings on CBC Television, will be set in Lethbridge. The efforts of Lethbridge Police Detective Ryan Stef are shown as he investigates the vicious murder of an innocent grandmother.
The detective “pushes his investigative creativity to the limit” as he attempts to bring the killer to justice, the series producers explain.
The episode — second in the third season, which begins this month — is scheduled to air at 9 p.m. local time on Jan. 16.
An original Canadian series, “The Detectives” aims at bringing to life some of the investigations actually conducted after a major crime somewhere across the nation. It blends first-person interviews with people who were involved, with scripted drama re-creating the situation.
Charges laid in home invasion
Two 17-year-old male youths are facing charges in connection with an alleged home invasion incident in west Lethbridge on New Year’s Eve.
According to police, just after 11 p.m. on Dec. 31 officers responded to a residence in the 100 block of Simon Fraser Boulevard West after receiving a 911 call reporting several people had entered a residence wearing disguises and brandishing pellet guns.
Police said veiled threats were made toward the occupants of the home before the suspects discharged the pellet guns into property, causing a small amount of damage.
The suspects then fled in nearby vehicles prior to police arrival.
No one inside the residence was injured during the incident.
Subsequent police investigation led officers to the 1200 block of 9 Avenue North where one of the implicated vehicles was located.
Five individuals were taken into custody without incident. A pellet gun was recovered during the investigation.
“Our investigation has resulted in two 17-year-old males from Lethbridge being charged with break and enter and commit mischief, disguise with intent, and possession of a weapon dangerous to the public,” confirmed Lethbridge Police Service Insp. Jason Walper at a press conference.
Their goal was to help 6,000 Lethbridge people at Christmas.
But five collaborating agencies did better than that, thanks to support from the community.
The city’s Christmas Hope partnership says 6,155 children or adults received toys or food supplies last month.
A total of 1,439 households received food hampers, they report — including “Christmas fixings.” And more than 4,263 children received toy bundles.
Thanks to support from members of the community, they add, 1,892 adults and 4,263 children were assisted. The non-profit groups were prepared to serve 2,000 adults and 4,000 children.
The Christmas Hope campaign is a collaboration of five Lethbridge agencies — the Lethbridge Food Bank, Interfaith Food Bank, Salvation Army, Lethbridge Family Services “Angel Tree” program and My City Care Shop of Wonders — that work together during the lead-up to Christmas.
“Working in partnership seems to be having the best impact, not only for our donors but for the families we’re here to help,” says Danielle McIntyre, executive director with Interfaith Food Bank.
“When each agency can focus on what they do best, we are really able to stretch our resources, and we are able to provide a more consistent and festive experience for those we serve.”
Streamlining the Christmas Hope registration procedures allowed the five agencies to increase the quality of support provided to local families, organizers say, while also limiting duplication of services.
That proved particularly helpful for toy distribution agencies, they add.
Open house set
What’s ahead for one of Lethbridge’s earliest residential areas?
City residents are being invited to an open house next week to learn about future redevelopment policies for the Westminster neighbourhood.
Policy topics will include secondary suites, multi-family housing, building and site design as well as transportation, utilities and servicing.
The public session will be held Thursday, Jan. 9 from 5 to 8 p.m. in Westminster Hall on 5 Avenue North.
Participants will be invited to provide feedback on the policies being considered.
The Westminster neighbourhood runs from 1 Avenue to 9 Avenue, between 13 and 23 Street/Mayor Magrath Drive North.
Child-friendly activities will be available for participants with children.