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CRRA – Celebrating 65 Years

CRRA – Celebrating 65 Years

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Published By Evelyn Dehner and Courtney Lovgren


Photos by Riverwood Photography

Through countless booms and busts in Alberta over the past 65 years, the Calgary Residential Rental Association has continued to evolve and grow its mandate of “Helping Our Members Succeed in Their Business.” For the low price of membership, rental market professionals have access to a community where they can network and share ideas and experiences that will help them run their businesses better.

“Previously there wasn’t a lot of discussion amongst landlords on a wide scale so this way people could get together, talk about best practices and learn about the challenges they’re all facing,” says Wayne Morishita, executive director of the Calgary Residential Rental Association (CRRA).

Over the decades, the name changed from the Calgary Apartment Rental Association to Calgary Apartment Association and then finally rebranded to the Calgary Residential Rental Association with its new more contemporary, professional logo to better reflect the organization’s broad scope. What never changed was the organization’s dedication to elevating the industry and the members working within it.

In an ever-changing market, the Association has been a constant since it was established in 1959 by a group of prominent businesspeople in the city. Since its inception, the CRRA has supported its members from across the province who fall into one of four categories: owner/managers, property managers, service providers and non-profit organizations that provide affordable housing. The membership includes everything from small private owner/managers with one unit to huge corporations managing thousands of tenants, and they are supported by CRRA’s service providers in a variety of related areas including plumbers, electricians, restoration professionals and painters. The service members join the Association to grow their business as well as provide support and reliable, professional, services to all members. And to sweeten the deal, CRRA members enjoy discounted rates from various service member vendors.

On top of building this valuable industry network, the Association also provides members with education, resources and government advocacy to further the industry’s interests while at the same time implementing professional standards of conduct. The CRRA has a code of ethical principles to which all members, regardless of size or member category, must adhere as a way to further the health and growth of the industry and elevate the profile of those working in it.

“My view is that every landlord should belong to a professional association because that’s where you can get the resources and information you need, and you’ve got trustworthy people that can answer your questions,” says Gerry Baxter, former executive director of the CRRA. “This is a professional business, and you have to understand it and run it like a business. If you don’t, it could cost you tens of thousands of dollars.”

CRRA membership is akin to an inexpensive insurance policy, and while members may not need to use the resources often, they are grateful to have access to them when the need arises. Members have everything they need on all aspects of the business right at their fingertips including professionally developed digital and paper forms and leases drawn directly from current legislation. The experienced team is always available to help members navigate any situation, offering reliable information and sound advice. If a question lands outside the team’s massive wheelhouse they can refer members to their roster of external experts to ensure the issue is satisfactorily resolved. The Association is proud to provide all these tools that members need to be successful and support its members as they grow in their profession.

“At the CRRA, we have all the support and educational resources needed to help assist the small one- to 20-unit holder all the way up to the members managing the larger portfolios,” says Sarah Harrison, financial and event manager and director of marketing for CRRA.

In the residential rental market, information is power, and the three-person CRRA team gladly spreads that power around. They know the provincial legislation inside and out, which is no surprise given they advocated for landlords leading up to the Landlord and Tenants Act in the 1970s and have consulted with government on the iterations that followed. They have turned that knowledge into a course on the Residential Tenancies Act aimed at educating landlords, property managers and building owners on the regulations governing the sector and how to properly apply the legislation to their businesses.

Seeing as a good tenant-landlord relationship is the recipe for success, the CRRA does all it can to facilitate that on both sides of the transaction. The team developed a Smart Renting in Alberta program covering both tenants’ and landlords’ rights and responsibilities that they present in partnership with organizations like Chinook Learning, various First Nations groups, Calgary Catholic Immigration Society and Bow Valley College. It is geared to students, newcomers to Canada and people new to renting to ensure they have accurate information to protect themselves while making them good tenants as well.

Education is a big part of the Association’s mandate, and it hosts eight luncheons and seminars every year to educate members on a variety of rental-related topics that impact them. The seminars cater more to landlords and property managers while the luncheons are more industry based with topics that appeal to a wider group of members. Presentations range from Calgary’s economic development to how landlords can collect rent after a tenant skips town, from the resources available for victims of domestic violence to what property inspectors do.

“People who come out are really enthusiastic,” says Nikki Petrowitz, administrator and communications coordinator at the CRRA. “Networking is a huge component, and it creates this community of landlords. It’s not necessarily because you know there is going to be a business transaction, but you know you’ve got friends in the industry when it can be isolating as a smaller unit holder.”

The CRRA further builds community with fun annual events like the CRRA Expo which offers topical speakers, unique exhibitors and a chance to network with other members. The 20th CRRA Annual Award Gala is another highlight of the year as the Association recognizes membership excellence in 17 categories to celebrate achievements of both organizations and individuals, all of whom are nominated and selected by fellow CRRA members.

From the elegant to the purely entertaining, this year marks the 31st Annual CRRA Golf Extravaganza, where foursomes hit the links for a fun Texas Scramble. They encounter a different sponsor company at every hole, each with creative challenges for golfers to complete. The golf round and the dinner after it are a great way for members to network, earn bragging rights for the year and support the industry while having a blast.

And the industry needs all the fun and support it can get after the past few challenging years. The scarcity of rental units across the country is especially dire in Alberta as the province has experienced a huge migration of people from the rest of Canada coupled with an influx of immigration that serves to strain a market that is already stretched thin. New home construction isn’t keeping pace, and the economic rollercoaster is just adding fuel to the fire.

“You have a recession and then COVID, and there was a short hiatus on rent increases as the province tried to quell the market and make it softer for tenants. Landlords suffered from huge property tax increases from the City, and then there’s inflation, utilities went through the roof and we’re facing high interest rates that affect their mortgages,” says Morishita, and all of this created a perfect storm leading to rising rental prices.

The tight rental market and elevated prices have been front-page news, shining a spotlight on an industry that is much maligned and misunderstood. All too often, landlords are villainized in the media, portrayed as monocle-wearing elitists carting off bags full of money from lowly renters. The Calgary Residential Rental Association knows the true story and struggle behind Calgary’s rental professionals; many landlords are mom-and-pop outfits doing their best to make ends meet in incredibly challenging times.

“The nature of rental housing is the majority of units out there are owned by smaller operators with one to 10 units, and that’s true across the country,” he says.

These small landlords are ill-equipped to ride out this volatile market for long and as a result many have exited the business in the past several years. For them, business became unviable as the economy transitioned from a recession where landlords offered incentives to keep units occupied to an era of high population growth, high taxes and high interest rates that sent their expenses soaring. Their exit only exacerbates the rental unit shortage. Members, especially the small outfits, remain under extreme pressure amidst demands for rent controls.

“Rent control is not only detrimental in terms of managing the price of rent but it also puts a big damper on new construction,” says Morishita. “People will look elsewhere to invest their money.”

The CRRA is working on awareness and education surrounding the issue of rent controls and points to global studies on the universal adverse effects and unintended consequences of implementing such policies: developers soon shy away from building rental units, smaller operators sell their properties further limiting rental options and existing spaces are not well maintained due to the disparity between inflationary costs and rent collected. The Association is working hard to facilitate solutions that will ease these pressures as it advocates for a fair and equitable balance in the industry at City Hall. The federal government’s Capital Cost Allowance, which allows landlords to depreciate their buildings at a faster rate to decrease their annual returns, will help but it’s not enough. More help is needed and the CRRA will not stop demanding it for members.

“There are going to be challenging times ahead for sure,” he says.

With Gerry Baxter’s retirement after 23 years with the Association, Wayne Morishita is rolling up his sleeves to meet those challenges head-on as the new executive director. With its dogged determination and dedication to members and the industry over the past 65 years, the Calgary Residential Rental Association has proven that its ready for anything.

4653 Macleod Trail SW
Calgary AB T2G 0A6
403.265.6055 |

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