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The province announced an expansion of the Saskatchewan’s Housing Benefit Thursday, but those with a watchful eye on the province’s housing situation say the increase doesn’t do enough to help vulnerable people.

The amount of money distributed by the SHB monthly has increased by $25 for households that spend between 35 and 45 per cent of their income on shelter costs. For households that spend 45 per cent or more of their income on shelter, they’ll receive an extra $75, according to a joint announcement from the federal and provincial governments.

“A key amendment that we would like to see for the Saskatchewan Housing Benefit would be that individuals and families on income assistance would be eligible because those individuals and families are the people in greatest housing needs and those are the individuals and families that the rental housing supplement was taken away from back in 2018,” Cameron Choquette, CEO of the Saskatchewan Landlords Association, said in an interview Thursday.

“We think, in order to bolster income assistance in the province, increase program subscription for this benefit.”

Renters who are currently not eligible include people on other government training or assistance programs, those renting from a social housing program, sponsored newcomers to Canada and full-time post-secondary students.

Renters who pay 35 per cent of their pre-tax income on rent are eligible for the expanded benefit, as are those who have less than $300,000 in household assets and those who have an annual household income, before taxes are deducted, below a specific limit. Full eligibility requirements can be found on the province’s website.

Previously, the eligibility was dependent on renters spending more than 40 per cent of pre-tax income on shelter costs. Eligible renters could also not possess more than $100,000 in household assets.

“Still, after this announcement, those families, the children or persons with disability that are either on the SAID or SIS programs are still not able to access the support they need to be able to gain and maintain stable housing and adequate housing,” Peter Gilmer with the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry said.

“The big issue is that it’s expanding upwards, which is alright, but it also needs to be expanded to those people that really need it the most,” Gilmer added.

Under the revised benefit, a single person or couple with no children would receive $175 per month if they were spending rent in the 35 to 45 per cent of monthly income threshold. That would rise to $225 if they were spending more than 45 per cent.

They’d get $225 per month if they had one child and paid below the 45 per cent limit. It would increase to $275 if it were more than 45 per cent. If a person or couple had two kids, it would rise to $275 if they were below the limit and $325 if they were paying more.

“The issue that we’ve been trying to hammer home is that the people hurt most by the rental housing supplement cut four years ago are still waiting for that gap to be filled and we expected it was going to be filled in 2020,” Gilmer said.


Story by: Regina Leader-Post