The Pulse: Nov. 17, 2023

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  • 13°C: Sunny. Wind becoming west 20 km/h near noon. High 13. UV index 1 or low. (forecast)
  • Purple: The High Level Bridge will be lit purple for World Prematurity Day. (details)
  • 2pm, Nov. 18: The Edmonton Oilers (5-9-1) play the Tampa Bay Lightning (6-6-4) at Amalie Arena. (details)

A narrow hallway inside an apartment building in Edmonton.

Financialization of housing puts Edmonton's affordability at risk, advocates say

By Stephanie Swensrude

Investors own nearly half of all purpose-built rental buildings in Edmonton, and as National Housing Day approaches, housing advocates warn that the city's lauded affordability could disappear if governments do not act on this fast-moving trend.

Less than 30 years ago, estimates put the amount of purpose-built rental buildings that real estate operating companies (REOCs) and real estate investment trusts (REITs) owned in Edmonton at just 1.6% of all such buildings. But that proportion reached 47% by 2022, indicates a recent study by the Affordable Housing Solutions Lab, a partnership between the City of Edmonton and the University of Alberta. That's one of the highest percentages in Canada.

The study found the proportion of buildings that REITs and REOCs own increased by 22% between 2019 and 2022 alone. Many do not expect this trend to stop rising, either. The Western Investor, for example, said Edmonton's high immigration numbers and low vacancy rates make it the top city in the country for real estate investors.

Treating rental buildings as investments, judged primarily on their ability to generate profits for investors, is a change in thinking that many have framed as the "financialization of housing." Some, such as the Canadian Centre for Housing Rights, suggest this trend is partly responsible for the loss of affordable housing stock.

To mark National Housing Day on Nov. 22, the Edmonton Coalition on Housing and Homelessness is presenting a screening at Metro Cinema of the documentary Push, which examines financialization's effect on housing affordability around the world. Leilani Farha, the former UN special rapporteur on housing, will present updates on the phenomenon via a video call, and Eric Rice will be on hand to discuss the Edmonton Affordable Housing Maintenance Fund, which he recently created through the Edmonton Community Foundation.

Edmonton housing advocates say the financialization of housing is tied to increases in rent. In 2006, 80% of rental suites in the Edmonton region went for less than $999 a month. Now, the average one-bedroom apartment goes for $1,284 in Edmonton, according to the October summary from

There is no concrete proof that the financialization of housing is a cause of increased rents, and tenants have to pay rent regardless of whether the unit is owned by a large entity or by Bill and Martha down the street. But Jim Gurnett, spokesperson for ECOHH, said most local landlords have an incentive to provide high-quality housing at a reasonable price that large financial landlords don't have.

"One of these entities can say, 'We're going to increase rent by 20% or 25%, or we're going to clean out this building of its current renters and renovate it for higher-end rental units,'" Gurnett told Taproot. "They can do those things without really worrying much about it as part of their big financial plan. The end result is that we're pushing people, at the worst, into homelessness, or into lower quality housing as the pool of what's available shrinks."

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Headlines: Nov. 17, 2023

By Kevin Holowack and Mariam Ibrahim

A man in a black suit smiles while speaking into a microphone.

AGNT books a win at Startup TNT's Investment Summit VIII

By Ashley Lavallee-Koenig

AGNT, an online marketplace that makes it easier for event organizers to book entertainers, won the Edmonton finale of Startup TNT's Investment Summit VIII.

The app allows customers to browse for, book, and pay talent, while agents and artists can manage their careers from the AGNT Pro side, co-founder and CEO Viet Nguyen said in his Nov. 16 pitch to investors before a live audience at the Alberta Machine Learning Institute on Nov. 16.

"You can kind of look at AGNT as a way for artists to manage a career, but we can also see data on our end and watch artists as they grow," Nguyen said.

AGNT's first iteration gained over 12,000 users in its first two months while only focusing on a niche DJ market in Alberta. Nguyen said the company has a waitlist of 2,000 users for its next edition, and the first two weeks of beta testing assisted with over 35 bookings.

Nguyen is a partner and talent buyer with Boodang Music Canada, where he has worked for 23 years. He was responsible for bringing Tiesto to Edmonton before he became a global superstar.

"When I was in my 20s, Tiesto was not a big DJ," Nguyen said in a Q&A after his pitch. "You grow with them, and that's sort of how AGNT's gonna work as well."

AGNT will focus next on reaching out to regional brand ambassadors like liquor stores, launching the app on iOS and Android, and expanding into the Swedish market in the first half of 2024.

The other Edmonton finalists were AllSeeing, a radio-sensing company with applications in health sciences; Drift Golf, a management tool for golf courses; Kid-Drop, a shuttle service for busy parents; and Roshan Water Solutions, which does rapid tests of water quality.

Startup TNT held investment summits in three other locations at the same time. RetinaLogik won in Calgary; fidu won in Saskatoon; and FeedFlo won in Winnipeg. Each winner will receive at least $150,000 in angel investment.

Photo: Viet Nguyen, co-founder and CEO of AGNT, won the Edmonton side of Startup TNT's Investment Summit VIII on Nov. 16. (Startup TNT/YouTube)

A bull rider atop a bucking bull with cowboys in the background cheering him on.

Weekend agenda: Nov. 17-19, 2023

By Debbi Serafinchon

This weekend will see some winter light-ups, the most exciting eight seconds in sports, input into the future of Alberta, an AGM for the two-wheeled crowd, burlesque with a side of barbecue, and a talk by a soccer hero.

Find even more things to do in the Arts Roundup and the Food Roundup.

Photo: Professional bull riders will compete for over $250,000 in prize money in the PBR Canada National Finals at Rogers Place. (PBR Canada/Facebook)