A North Vancouver senior is urging MLA Bowin Ma and other provincial leaders to increase the rent subsidy BC is giving to low income seniors under the SAFER program.
Run by BC Housing, the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) program helps make rents affordable for BC seniors who have low to moderate incomes. SAFER program provides monthly cash payments to subsidise rents for eligible BC residents who are age 60 or over.
Sue Lakes Cook, a senior living in North Vancouver, accessed the program in 2016 and she received a $277 payment as a help for her rent of $800. In 2017, however, she was dismayed to see her grant payment was reduced by $30 while her rent increased to $853. Cook says BC Housing uses the formula that bases the subsidy on an assumption that the rent in lower mainland for a single person is $765 for a single person and $825 for couples.
“There are no rentals that I am aware of in the Lower Mainland at the rates the SAFER program is based on. I am very lucky as I have lived in my bachelor apartment for 14 years so my rent is on the low side for the Lower Mainland but the rents in here for new people moving in range between $1600 to $2,000. How much are low income seniors getting towards those rents?” she wonders.
Cook said she lives in a bachelor apartment and doesn’t own a car and has no other way of reducing expenses. She counts herself lucky but does worry for other seniors who may be struggling financially and get a pittance for help. Cook has now written to local MLAs and hopes they will see that the subsidy being offered by the government doesn’t remotely match the reality of rents in the North Shore or even Lower Mainland communities.
“The only way this is going to change is if the politicians in BC are willing to make the change. They need to know there are 22,000 seniors in the Province that are on the SAFER program. After paying taxes all these years, we deserve to live last part of our lives with decent housing. I am confident that my MLA, Bowin Ma is a person who truly cares about the welfare of the people in her riding so I truly hope that she stands tall and speaks loudly for the low income seniors here in North Vancouver,” she said.
Cook has written to the Office of the Seniors Advocate, a government agency that monitors and analyses seniors’ services and issues in BC. The agency noted in a report to the government in 2015 that since 2005, the average BC market rent has increased by 45 per cent while the SAFER maximum rent has increased by only 9 per cent.
The group suggested to the government that maximum subsidy allowed under the program be increased and the program should better reflect the ground realities of the rental market in the Lower Mainland.