Housing and Poverty
There are a number of rental assistance and income assistance programs in the Province of BC. The Rental Assistance Program (RAP) for families and SAFER (Shelter Assistance for Elderly Renters) are two rental assistance programs. Income assistance and disability allowances are also available for individuals who qualify for these types of income supports.
The rental programs are aimed at low income families and seniors paying more than 30% of their income on rent. According to BC Housing statistics in 2016, about 10, 200 families used RAP and about 19,9000 accessed SAFER. These programs have specific eligibility criteria including income, however, you are completely ineligible if “you or your family receive income assistance through the BC Employment and Assistance Act or the Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Act (excluding Medical Services only).”
For the 33, 500 children in BC whose parents receive income assistance or a disability allowance, they must find housing at the rates listed in the tables below. A family of four would need to find housing for $700 per month. Since 2007, basic income assistance and disability benefits have been frozen. The cost of living in Metro Vancouver has increased significantly in the last decade and welfare and shelter rates have not kept pace. Seniors and families living on income assistance or disability allowances face multiple challenges and are often at risk of the effects of sub-standard living conditions, food insecurity, ill health, isolation and marginalization. According to the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, 595,000 British Columbians live in poverty with about 180,000 on income assistance or disability allowance.
The 2016 Child Poverty Report Card states that “Early childhood (0–5 years) is a critical developmental period for the human brain and the skills and capabilities influenced by early experiences. The experience of poverty in this crucial period is known to impact children for the rest of their lives, making elimination of young children’s poverty especially important.” The same report indicates that one in five children lives in poverty in BC, in other words, 20% of BC’s children will suffer the lifelong impacts of childhood poverty.
Individuals living on income assistance or a disability allowance receive $4,500 per year and families of four receive $8,400 per year for their shelter allowance.
Raising income assistance and disability allowances, as well as raising shelter rates and improving access to rental programs would increase individuals and families ability to find and maintain housing thus reducing the instances of homelessness across the region and province.