Yukon Housing eases rents for veterans with disabilities

The Yukon Housing Corporation no longer counts veterans' disability pensions as income in rent calculations. A policy change in September simplified how income is determined for social housing clients.

The Yukon Housing Corporation no longer counts veterans’ disability pensions as income in rent calculations.

A policy change in September simplified how income is determined for social housing clients. Yukon Housing residents pay one quarter of household income in rent.

When the News reported last week on concerns that veterans’ disability pensions were being included in that calculation, a housing spokesperson mistakenly said nothing had changed.

In fact, as of September, the Yukon Housing Corporation only considers taxable income to determine rent.

That means non-taxable income, including the veterans’ disability pension, is no longer counted.

“The policy change is that a person pays rent based on their previous year’s notice of assessment,” said Housing’s vice president of operations, Matt King.

“So, if you’re a tenant of ours and you earned a certain amount of money in 2012, whatever the amount of money was, according to your notice of assessment from the Canada Revenue Agency, is how your rent would be set for the year ahead. This is what’s changed in September.”

The old policy required that tenants declare their income to Yukon Housing every month. It involved a variety of different forms and adjustment calculations when tax forms came in at the end of the year.

The new method reduces stress for the tenants and makes rents more predicable and more straight forward, King said.

In the event that someone’s income dramatically decreases from the year before there are policies in place to reassess their rent, he said.

King said he doesn’t know how many people in social housing currently get the veterans’ disability pension.

Under the new policy most rents will stay virtually the same, he said.

They’re still calculated at 25 per cent of income.

In some cases rents will go down, and that’s positive for those tenants, he said. The benefit for the corporation is that the process is simpler to administer.

The process is being phased in.

“Right now we have a mix, some people pay on a month-to-month basis and some people pay based on the previous year’s notice of assessment and right now it’s a choice,” King said.

Most people have already come on to the new system. Everyone will be using the new calculations by September of next year, he said.

NDP MLA Kate White has been asking the government to stop calling veterans’ disability pensions “income” since 2012.

Veterans’ disability pensions are payments for pain and suffering, she said, and should not be considered income. She said she’s surprised the government didn’t trumpet the changes more when they happened.

“I’m surprised that they didn’t come out with this in a way that could celebrate what it meant for veterans and what this means nationally,” she said.

“This is big nationally, because this means that we’re a jurisdiction that has just recognized the difference between a benefit for pain and suffering and an income replacement.”

White said the NDP is currently reviewing other legislation in the territory that considers a person’s income, including the Social Assistance Act.

“Our plan is to make sure that anywhere that those calculations based on income are, the veterans’ disability pension does not get included as income.”

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