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Rent assistance: what are my options?

Posted on 2 November 2022

Written by Alan Spergel

If you are renting while you live in Canada, you likely know how difficult the housing market is across the country right now. With an increasing cost of living and rising interest rates, you may also be experiencing rising rent prices too. Life is becoming increasingly unaffordable for Canadians, and you may be questioning how much rent you should pay in Canada. Thankfully, it is not all doom and gloom. There are a number of rent assistance programs across Canada, all designed to support individuals finding the cost of housing unmanageable. These rent assistance programs are available to help you to save some money. In this article, we share the various rent assistance programs currently available in Canada, and how you can go about applying for them.

Which rent assistance programs exist in Canada?

The most well known rent assistance program in Canada is the Canada Housing Benefit. The Canada Housing Benefit offers households with a portable housing benefit support for rental or housing costs in the private housing market. The benefit is allocated to the household, and can be used to help you to pay rent where you choose. It is intended for Canadians who are spending a lot of their monthly income on their accommodation, no matter if they rent or own their home. The Canada Housing Benefit rent assistance is distributed both on a territorial and a provincial level, with each province having its own rules and variations of the program. The Canada Ontario Housing Benefit (or COHB), for example, is for those in priority groups who meet the eligibility criteria for the Centralized Waiting List for Rent Geared-to-Income subsidized housing. The COHB will make up the difference of 30% of the income of the household, and the average rent in the area. For individuals also receiving social assistance, the COHB will pay the deficit between the shelter allowance, and the cost of rent and bills of the household. This specific rent assistance is administered by the Province of Ontario, and the amount of the benefit is reviewed annually.

Which rent assistance programs exist in each province?

Each province in Canada has its own rent assistance program. Below, we have listed out each of the provincial rent assistance programs, and details on those who are eligible to apply.

Alberta

Alberta works slightly differently to most other provinces. Here, you can apply for rental assistance through a local housing provider if your income is eligible for the program.

British Columbia

British Columbia has the BC Housing Benefit to make rent more affordable. Although there is currently no way to apply to the rent assistance program directly, the benefit is give to priority groups selected by non-profit housing providers, or by BC Housing itself. As soon as you are accepted into the program, you can reapply each year to remain eligible.

Manitoba

Manitoba’s rent assistance program is open to supporting three communities in need. These include young people moving out of the child welfare system; those at risk of being homeless, or those already homeless; and Canadians living with addiction and mental health issues.

New Brunswick

The rent assistance program in New Brunswick is for renters who earn between $12,500 to $50,000 before taxes. You simply apply via the province.

Newfoundland and Labrador

In Newfoundland and Labrador, funds for rent assistance are distributed based on the income of applicants. This is determined by the government. Currently, the province does not have an official application for the program. When you apply for the Rental Housing Program, you could receive this or the NL-Canada Housing Benefit instead.

Northwest Territories

Provided you spend over 30% of your income on rent, you may apply for rent assistance.

Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia, you can apply for rent assistance directly through the government. If 30% of your income goes towards rent, or 50% of your income goes towards owning your home, you will likely be eligible to qualify for rent assistance.

Nunavut

In Nunavut, you can seek rent assistance if you are part of a vulnerable group. You can apply for this via your housing authority.

Ontario

Ontario also targets its rent assistance program to those in vulnerable communities. This includes individuals with disabilities, Indigenous people, and seniors. Anyone in these categories can apply for the program via their local housing provider.

Prince Edward Island

If you are a member of a vulnerable group, you may qualify for rent assistance in P.E.I. Those eligible will receive government money to go towards housing, based on your needs. You can apply online.

Quebec

Quebec’s rent assistance program works a little differently to the other provinces. Also known as the Rent Supplement, it is open to those in low-income households. It is intended to support these individuals to cut down their rent to 25% of their income. You can apply via your local housing bureau.

Saskatchewan

In Saskatchewan, in order to apply for rent assistance, you simply need to apply via the provincial government’s website to see if you meet the eligibility criteria.

Yukon

Provided you have less than $100,000 in assets, and an annual household income that falls within the Affordable Household Income Limits for your eligible unit size, you can apply for rent assistance directly.

Which Canadians are eligible for rent assistance?

Generally speaking, if you spend over 30% of your income on rent, or over half on owning your home, you may well qualify for rent assistance. As with anything, there are exceptions to this rule depending on your province of residence. While there is nationwide support, each province has its own rules on rental assistance and how it is distributed. Even some municipalities have other resources and programs for those struggling with high housing costs. The Canada Housing Benefit recently received a top up from the government, which means that low-income families may now be eligible for a one-off $500 payment. It is a good idea to look at your local government’s website to learn more about your rent assistance options.

If you are struggling with living costs and high rent, you may want to speak to an expert Licensed Insolvency Trustee. At Spergel, we can help to review your financial situation, and perhaps relieve you of any debt that is making your living expenses unmanageable. We have offices across Canada. Book a free consultation with us today to see if we can help you on your journey to financial freedom – you owe it to yourself.

Alan Spergel

Alan Spergel

Alan Spergel is the founder and President of Spergel. A leader in our industry, he is also a former chair of the Canadian Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Professionals (CAIRP) and has served on Canada's Superintendent of Bankruptcy Management Board. He actively supports multiple charities, ensuring that Spergel gives back to our communities and has recently been appointed as Chairman of the Board of the Humber River Hospital Foundation. Outside of the boardroom, you can find Alan playing golf, tennis, or skiing and enjoying quality time with his grandchildren.

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