Starting in December Yukon households making under six figures may be able to get a helping hand on their rent.
On Nov. 4 the Yukon government announced a partnership with the federal government that will see hundreds of low-income and moderate-income families receiving subsidies for the next seven years through the Canada-Yukon Housing Benefit.
“This is the first time that moderate-income earners can also benefit from some of our rent subsidy program,” said Yukon Housing Corporation social housing transformation director, Eva Wieckowski.
“We’re trying to de-stigmatize people that may benefit from support, so I think that’s a really positive thing. I think the length of the program also gives people housing stability and maybe will give people the ability to move into homeownership or other things,” she said.
Yukon households meeting a threshold of household income can receive $200, $400, $600 or $800 per month. This program will kick in on Dec. 1.
The exact amount of the subsidy will be calculated by Yukon Housing Corporation based on the housing arrangement, size of families and income of those applying.
Household income cut-offs are staggered by unit sizes.
In general, Yukoners can receive a subsidy if they rent a bachelor and as a household make under $51,480; rent a one-bedroom and make under $59,320; rent a two-bedroom and make under $68,720; rent a three-bedroom and make under $85,840; rent a four-bedroom and make under $87,040 or rent a five-bedroom and make under $103,070.
Wieckowski said although the online application refers to households as adults living under the same roof, the department considers adults living together under different leases as independent applicants.
For example, a group of three adult friends who share one lease would be considered one household with a combined income. A group of three adults who live together but have separate leases would each be considered separate households.
“I think people will be surprised that they are eligible. I think a lot more people will be eligible than they think,” she said.
Those applying for the subsidy must also have been a Yukon resident for at least three months, have less than $100,000 in assets, file an annual income tax return and not be receiving other housing benefits, among other criteria.
The program is part of the federal government’s National Housing Strategy, a 10-year plan announced in 2017 to reduce homelessness and improve housing affordability. The program includes $9.1 million of new federal funding, combined with a mix of territorial cost matching, for a total of $18.2 million that will support affordable housing subsidies for Yukoners.
While the short-term help was praised by the opposition in the legislature on Nov. 4, opposition MLAs also raised concerns that the subsidy does little to target root issues.
MLA Patti McLeod noted that in the last four years the number of people on a wait-list for social and seniors housing has more than tripled and now sits at 361.
“Programs like this one are good in that they can provide immediate assistance to people whose housing cost is more than they can afford. But let’s be clear: They don’t address the cause of the problem,” said NDP leader Kate White, noting that affordable housing is scarce and many young families are unable to buy houses.
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