Feds cut funding for low-income housing

Adocates warn rents could double for some low-income housing units in P.E.I.

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on August 10, 2013
Mary Morrison, president of the Island View Co-op, says an end to the federal mortgage subsidy program could see rent more than double for some low-income Islanders.
Guardian photo by Jim Day

Mary Morrison has lived in relative comfort for many years thanks to a financial hand up.

Morrison, 73, has resided in a unit of the Island View Housing Co-op since the co-operative was established 26 years ago.

A single mother, she moved into a three-bedroom duplex with her children that were ages eight and 10 at the time.

For the past quarter century, she has only paid about one-third of the full rent. She can’t imagine what her living alternatives would have been like without a regular subsidy.

“It’s been a beautiful place to live (and) to bring up children,’’ says Morrison.

“I am so thankful having found this place for all these years.’’

Thirteen housing co-ops across P.E.I. receive federal mortgage subsidization through the Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC).

Monthly subsidies range anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 for the housing co-ops, which allows many to enjoy affordable rent.

Of the 207 units in the 13 housing co-ops in the province, 102 are low-income subsidized housing, notes Marla Affleck, property manager with Atlantic Peoples Housing.

The CMHC subsidy agreements will expire with the 13 different housing co-ops between 2018 and 2026.

While this may seem a fair way down the road, Affleck wants to make sure money is found to fill the gap well in advance.

“We thought we would get ahead of the game so we are not caught like a deer in the headlights,’’ says Affleck.

“It’s certainly not going to happen overnight.’’

Affleck is hopeful the province will help address the loss of subsidization from the federal mortgage subsidy program.

When that funding ends, she anticipates rents will at least double for many residents of the 13 housing co-ops who are currently receiving low-income subsidized housing.

The only option they would have is to apply for housing subsidized by the provincial government - housing that already has many waiting on the doorstep for a spot.

Morrision, who is president of the Island View Co-op that consists of 12 duplexes, would like to know where future subsidization might come from.

“Well, my biggest concern is I don’t know where you would go to get enough money to pay rent,’’ she says.

“I’d be more worried about the others (living within the Island View Co-op) than me. As a co-op, we don’t have the funds to provide a subsidy...it would have to come from the province.’’

In April, P.E.I. and Ottawa hammered out an agreement to provide more than $3.6 million to help Islanders in greatest need of finding affordable housing or fixing up their current homes.

The new agreement replaces the previously signed agreement in 2011 and adds an additional $650,000 in provincial funding.

Rent supplements are among initiatives eligible for funding.

Meanwhile, the Conservative government’s decision to end funding to low-income co-operative housing units is being attacked as a move that will hurt struggling Canadians.

Liberal Advocate for Co-operatives Mauril Bélanger is calling on Ottawa to reverse the decision.

“More than 50,000 Canadians rely on the federal government’s rent-geared-to-income subsidy in order to pay their co-operative its monthly rent,’’ Bélanger said in a statement.

“Without this support, housing co-operatives will be faced with two untenable choices: raise rents to market rates, which those living onfixed incomes — including many families, seniors and people with disabilities — simply cannot afford, or ask other tenants to pay higher rent.’’