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SAFER improved, top-up benefit coming for people on rental assistance

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 2:55 PDT, Tue April 9, 2024

Improvements to the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) program and a one-time rental benefit of $430 will bring relief for families and seniors with low incomes who are receiving a rent subsidy through the Rental Assistance Program (RAP) and SAFER program.

“We are making changes to the SAFER program to support more seniors, and delivering a top-up cheque for seniors and families who are now struggling with the cost of living and rent,” said Ravi Kahlon, B.C.’s minister of housing. “This benefit, and the long-term changes to SAFER, will help ensure more seniors and families can remain in their homes.”

The one-time benefit will go to recipients of B.C.'s RAP and SAFER rent supplement programs. Current recipients automatically qualify and no action is required. Recipients will receive the one-time benefit with their regular RAP or SAFER payment in April 2024. In addition to the one-time benefit, changes are being made to the SAFER program that will allow an estimated 4,800 more seniors to qualify, and existing recipients will see an increase of approximately $110 per month, bringing the average monthly subsidy for existing clients to $310.

The changes to SAFER and the one-time benefit come at a time when the rising costs of living and the housing crisis are affecting people throughout the province, especially seniors with low or fixed incomes. The province expanded eligibility for SAFER and RAP in 2018, increasing the monthly rental-assistance amounts for each program. Even with those changes, rent ceilings have not kept up with market rents and seniors in particular, are increasingly vulnerable.

Improvements to the SAFER program will make it available to more seniors by:

  • increasing the income limit for eligibility for SAFER from $33,000 to $37,240, so more seniors will be eligible for rental assistance;  
  • increasing the minimum benefit from $25 to $50 a month or $600 a year;
  • rent ceilings, which help determine the amount of rental assistance for applicants, can now be reviewed and amended annually; and
  • launching a public awareness campaign to ensure more seniors are aware of the program.

SAFER provides seniors with low incomes financial support to help pay monthly rent. Clients in the new, higher income ranges may receive an average subsidy of $190 per month.

“This payment brings timely relief for low-income seniors and families experiencing increased living and rental costs," said Harwinder Sandhu, parliamentary secretary for Seniors' Services and Long-Term Care. “I look forward to the impact the upcoming improvements to the SAFER program will have for seniors in need, part of our government's ongoing commitment to helping seniors live safely and comfortably in their own homes.”

The one-time benefit comes from a $12.3-million federal top-up for the Canada Housing Benefit, intended as one-time payments for low-income B.C. households in need. The province is providing $15.6 million to support the longer-term improvements to SAFER.

“The Canada Housing Benefit is helping Canadians in need afford their housing costs,” said Sean Fraser, federal minister of housing, infrastructure and communities. “With this additional funding, our goal is to ease the pressure on residents in British Columbia who are struggling to cover their living expenses. We will continue working with other levels of government to address ongoing housing challenges. This is just one of the many ways that the National Housing Strategy is helping to ensure every Canadian has a safe and secure home.”

Through the province's Homes for People action plan, government is providing seniors throughout British Columbia with the supports they need, to be able to stay in their homes where they feel safe and connected.

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