For many rural communities facing similar challenges to those of the Nakusp region, the search for affordable rental housing, especially by members of the older population now trying to make ends meet while living sparingly on a fixed income, is becoming an increasing concern.
However, the good news for Nakusp area pensioners Ellen and Tom and many others like them, is that some relief from the added stress, brought about by unexpected economic circumstances not of their own making, may well be in sight.
A BC Housing rent subsidy program commonly referred to as “SAFER” (Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters) is a financial benefit designed specifically for those aged 60 years and older who meet eligibility requirements which are clearly laid down by the B.C. government, sponsor of the program.
Applicants upon acceptance can expect to receive varying degrees of direct (non-taxable) cash assistance intended to help offset the rising cost of rental accommodation. An additional increase in the heat allowance is also available through the program.
According to the BC Housing service representative I spoke with recently, SAFER’s purpose is to provide the greatest subsidy to persons with the least amount of income.
If you meet all of the following conditions, you may be eligible:
-you pay rent for your home
-you are either a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant or are authorized to take up permanent residence (for those aged 60-64).
-you and your spouse (with whom you are living) have resided in BC for the full 12 months immediately preceding filing of your application
-you have lived in Canada for at least one year, as an adult
-you are paying in excess of 30% of your household gross monthly income (before tax) on rent. This includes the cost of pad rental for a manufactured home (trailer) which you own and occupy
-Your gross (before tax) monthly household income does not exceed the following amounts: singles ($2,033); couples ($2,217); couples ($2,217); Shared accommodation ($1,625).
Note that you will not be eligible if you are under the age of 60 or if you live in subsidized housing or a residential care facility which is funded by the Ministry of Health. Also, if you are paying room and board, just 50 per cent of your rent payment is subsidized. SAFER does not cover board, cable, parking, laundry or other personal services.
The program is also not available if you or your family receives income assistance through the Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance (welfare), since a “shelter allowance” is already included as part of your assistance benefit. The “income assistance” disqualification does not, however, refer to recipients of the BC Medical Services Plan or Federal Government financial entitlements for which you are deemed eligible such as a Survivor’s Allowance or Canada Pension Plan benefit, as long as you are aged 60 years or older.
SAFER application forms and explanatory brochures may be downloaded from the internet (www.bchousing.org). Additional information and qualifying details concerning SAFER as well as other BC Housing programs (for example details of the HASI grant intended to pay for certain permanently stationed-in-the-home or property mobility aids for the elderly or physically disabled persons of any age as described in the last column) is also available by calling toll-free 1-800-257-7756.