Government to phase out rental housing supplement

Cristina Crowe lives a positive life and works hard to provide for her family. She is a single mother, raising her children while working full-time and will be finishing her last year of university in business in the fall.

Her life wasn’t always like this. Nine years ago she made the decision to leave an abusive relationship.

“In 2009, I made a decision that I wasn’t sure would be an easy one. To stay in a relationship that was unhealthy and subjected my kids to witnessing violence and domestic abuse, that they have already been witnesses to many, many times. Leaving would mean I would be financially and emotionally responsible for my children. Could I be strong enough? Would we be okay? How would it all work?” said Crowe.

With the help of the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement, she was able to move into an affordable and safe home for her and her children.

“Being able to have some of my rent paid just opened up a little bit more flexibility with money to do things and take care of my children the way I wanted to,” added Crowe.

As of July 1, 2018, Saskatchewan will no longer be accepting new applicants for the housing supplement. Current clients will still receive their benefits.

The supplement helps low-to-moderate income families with children under the age of 18 to be able to access affordable housing and those with cognitive and physical disabilities who need supports in their household.

New applicants can apply for the supplement before June 30 but they must meet the eligibility requirements.

A new national housing strategy is being developed with the federal government but it will not go into effect until 2020.

Community organizations like the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry, Heritage Community Association, Poverty Free Saskatchewan and End Poverty Regina is calling on the government to reconsider what they are calling a cut to the supplement, adding the decision will affect those most vulnerable.

“Pull back from what is a cruel and unnecessary cut,” said Peter Gilmer, an advocate for the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry.

“People have to take money out of their food budget and their budgets for other basic needs in order to make their rent and for those people who are now not going to be able to access the supplement, its going to be that much more difficult.”

“Financial distress, lack of access to affordable housing were cited as reasons that women stayed in violent relationships, they were cited as reasons that people returned to violent relationships,” added Nairn MacKay with Poverty Free Saskatchewan.

Jeff Redekop with the province’s income assistance says this is not the end to the supplement and there are still services in place to help those in need.

“We‘ll continue our work with our colleagues in our housing division of our ministry so people who are able to get accepted into social housing and they are well aware of what vacancies are available to them."

The province has provided $330 million for its supplement clients since 2005. This was when the vacancy rate in Saskatchewan was at 4.5 percent. Changes to the supplement program are expected to save the government $5 million. There are approximately 14,000 clients who use the supplement.