$517M rent aid program to help take sting out of rent for vulnerable in B.C.

A new housing benefit targeting low-income and vulnerable households could mean a little more breathing room in the monthly budget.

The $517-million Canada-B.C. Housing Benefit program, announced Monday, could translate into as much as $2,500 a year in rent relief for some families. The joint government housing program is designed to offer a break on rent for as many as 25,000 people in B.C.

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“This is a game changer,” said Ahmed Hussen, the federal minister of families, children and social development. “It’s a direct support to people, to individuals and families.”

The program can help people living in rental properties with monthly payments or lift people out of homelessness into housing, Hussen said. The average benefit to participants across Canada has been about $2,500 a year, but the payment amount in B.C. can be increased depending on rent costs and household circumstances, he said.

“It enables them to access housing,” he said. “Again, situations in which people can pay some amount of rent but are maybe priced out of rental markets, this will help them access independent housing and move away from shelters.”

David Eby, B.C.’s minister responsible for housing, said the program is designed to provide aid to households currently not eligible for the province’s Rental Assistance Program or Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters.

“This fund will provide an additional amount of money to vulnerable groups in our province to help them make rent,” Eby said. “This would be where someone has some amount of money to put toward rent but market rents are too high for them to be able to get into that kind of rental housing.”

The benefits are aimed at helping women fleeing family violence, Indigenous and racialized people, veterans, youth leaving care, people with disabilities and those experiencing homelessness or at risk of being homeless, he said.

The benefit will be provided through non-profit housing providers or by B.C. Housing.

The provincial housing organization said the benefits will range from between $25 and $491 per month for singles or couples without dependents, and from $50 to $625 per month for families.

Half of the 10-year program is already in motion and was announced as part of enhancements made to the provincial Rental Assistance Program and Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters in 2018.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

— With a file from The Canadian Press

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