Two Watson Lake seniors have been bumped from the Yukon Housing Corporation waitlist because they have too many assets.
Tor Forsberg and her partner, Paul Tubb, own a 12-year-old truck and a 27-year-old camper. They also own the 37-year-old trailer that they live in.
“At the best of markets, that’s not a tremendous amount of assets,” Forsberg, 75, told the News. “But we always figured it would be enough.”
When Paul, 81, was medevaced to Vancouver about three years ago, Forsberg realized they might not be able to maintain their trailer indefinitely. That’s when she submitted an application to the Yukon Housing Corporation, imagining that an apartment or duplex in town, where they could walk to the store and post office, would be more manageable in their later years.
Since then, her partner’s health has declined and household tasks like shovelling snow have become more difficult.
“Just the ordinary everyday things that we used to do, without really thinking about it, we’re not going to be capable of anymore,” Forsberg said.
On Jan. 31, Forsberg received a rejection letter from the housing corporation’s Rent-Geared-to-Income program under its new asset ceiling rules.
Now, Forsberg feels they’re stuck between have and have-not. While they have too many assets to apply for housing, they don’t have enough to afford market rent or a senior living community in Whitehorse.
“If we could afford to do it, I wouldn’t have applied,” Forsberg said.
According to the Yukon Housing Corporation, the $100,000 asset ceiling has always existed, but seniors were exempt before December 2022.
The exemption was flagged in the auditor general’s report on housing last year.
“The report recommended we ensure our eligibility requirements are consistent across our portfolio of tenants,” said communications analyst Josh Long in an email statement on March 10.
If a senior’s situation changes, they can provide new financial information and the application will be reinstated.
There are currently 17 applications on the waitlist in Watson Lake, according to Long’s email. Two of the 17 are seniors. The housing corporation is responsible for 87 Watson Lake units.
According to Forsberg, the new rules are posing a shock to many seniors who planned to apply for housing as a strategy for aging in the community. Watson Lake doesn’t have any independent or assisted senior living facilities.
Forsberg’s sister, Cynthia Kearns, is the president of the Signpost Seniors Association. She says the lack of seniors housing in Watson Lake is a huge issue for the community’s aging population.
She called the housing corporation’s new asset ceiling “alarming” for seniors who considered it their back-up plan.
Many Watson Lake seniors live in aging trailers, which require substantial maintenance and repairs, Kearns said. The question of what happens when the maintenance becomes too much is “a huge issue.”
The asset ceiling was implemented at a time when the rising cost of living is already hitting seniors hard, as pensions don’t increase with rising costs.
The Signpost Seniors serve a free hot lunch every Wednesday for a small annual membership fee. Kearns said attendance has ballooned to 70 plates every week.
“The carbon tax is killing us, the cost of groceries is killing us,” Kearns said.
She referenced the federal government’s movement towards expanding the eligibility requirements for medical assistance in dying.
“I think they’re going to force seniors into that decision, because they won’t be able to afford to live anymore.”
Contact Gabrielle Plonka at firstname.lastname@example.org