Seniors
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Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Rent gap ‘just not sustainable’ BC seniors’ advocate says

Report shows some seniors pay up to 76% of their income on rent

Mark Brennae
June 5, 2024
Seniors
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Rent gap ‘just not sustainable’ BC seniors’ advocate says

Report shows some seniors pay up to 76% of their income on rent

Mark Brennae
Jun 5, 2024
Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock
Seniors
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Rent gap ‘just not sustainable’ BC seniors’ advocate says

Report shows some seniors pay up to 76% of their income on rent

Mark Brennae
June 5, 2024
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Rent gap ‘just not sustainable’ BC seniors’ advocate says

In April, Dan Levitt, BC’s newly installed seniors advocate, went out on a “listening tour” across the province to hear what seniors are concerned about these days.

What he heard was not surprising.

“The No. 1 issue that seniors are facing around the province is affordability,” Levitt tells Capital Daily.

“Seniors are paying a disproportionate amount of their income—because they have low income—on rent because we've seen rent prices and other costs go up at a faster rate than their fixed incomes do.”

Levitt said he met seniors who are paying as much as 76% of their income on rent.

“And that’s just not sustainable,” he said.

He said many seniors—widows, often—who have been living for some time in lower-rent apartments for various reasons have to find a new place to live. This is where the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) program is supposed to keep rents affordable by providing cash payments to subsidize rents. The program uses a $931 rent ceiling, meaning the first $931 of rent attracts a subsidy (just increased by $115, to approximately $300) which would cover only half the cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Victoria.

But if a senior’s income is limited to old-age security and CPP, he said they're going to spend about three-quarters of their income on rent.

“We'd like to see the rent ceiling moved up to what people are actually paying,” Levitt said. “I think that would get us closer to that 30% target.”

One in four seniors earns less than $23K a year—under the poverty line—and Levitt heard from many on fixed incomes how difficult it has been to keep up with the cost of living and recent surges in the costs of food, housing, medical equipment, mobility aids, and other necessities.

Seniors also said they feel there is a shortage of supports and services now, and worry it will get worse.

“I met a woman who had tried to get her husband back into the town she was living in and she was fed up with driving more than half an hour to visit her husband in long-term care.”

Levitt said the supply-and-demand issue for long-term care “is worse than I thought it was,” but the silver lining is that community-based supports are “robust” and need only consistent funding.

“But the seniors are helping other seniors. They are the backbone of volunteerism in our province.”

According to the BC government, almost one-quarter of BC adults (just shy of 24%) are 65 years or older and next year, some 1.2 million seniors will call BC home.

“It is estimated that one in four British Columbians will be over 65 by 2036 which is more seniors as a proportion of the population than at any other time in our history,” Levitt said.

An aging population brings older drivers and Levitt would like to see the province cover the costs of medical tests drivers who turn 80 must take to prove they can still safely drive.

He also wonders what happens to those told they can’t. 

“That's quite concerning, if they become isolated, lonely, and socially excluded, how do they get around?” 

Levitt—appointed in January to replace Isobel Mackenzie, Canada’s first seniors’ advocate—recommends the government:

  1. Redesign the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) program so seniors’ rents comprise 30% or less of their income and rent ceilings reflect the housing shortage
  2. Increase the amount of BC Seniors Supplement, and index the supplement to inflation 
  3. Eliminate daily rate charges for home support 

The report also suggests the province provide a free shingles vaccine program for people over 50, following a recommendation from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI). It also suggested a cross-ministry strategy for seniors that’s reported on annually. 
The Office of the Seniors Advocate (OSA) monitors and analyzes seniors’ services in five key areas: health care, housing, income supports, community supports, and transportation. The seniors’ advocate makes recommendations to the government and service providers

contact@capitaldaily.ca

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Rent gap ‘just not sustainable’ BC seniors’ advocate says
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