About 50 people from two Langley City low-income seniors residences were told a switch to a new system of subsidies will involve more paperwork, but won’t boost their rent costs beyond their ability to pay.
The move to include the provincial Shelter Aid For Elderly Renters (SAFER) program will require tenants to pay close to market rents, then get a portion refunded.
“I know it is a bit scary,” said Jeanette Dagenais, executive director of the Langley Lions Senior Citizens Housing Society (LLSCHS).
Dagenais told the Wednesday morning (Feb. 1) meeting for residents of the Alder and Cedar buildings that the change is the result of a 2013 provincial government decision to eliminate traditional subsidies for the rental buildings.
Since then, LLSCHS has been using its own money to keep rents down, but that is not sustainable, she warned.
“The society has been subsidizing you,” Dagenais told the tenants.
“We’ve been foregoing income.”
Under the new approach, residents will be expected to pay no more than 33 per cent of their income in housing charges, a slight increase from the current formula of 30 per cent.
Renters will have to fill out forms to qualify for SAFER and they will be required to re-apply every year.
The society will be raising rents to near-market rates of $850 a month for one bedrooms, and $775 a month for bachelor suites.
However, most residents will pay just a fraction of those amounts, and only slightly more than they’re paying now.
Elsie Nemick, a 17-year resident, currently pays $385 a month and estimates the amount she pays will rise about 10 per cent.
“It will mean a bit more paperwork for us, but the office will carry most of the paperwork load (anyway),” resident Marie Mol said.
Resident Linda Thomas said the new approach is poorly understood by some residents, who are under the impression the higher rents will have to be paid in full.
“People just totally panicked (when the notices went out Monday),” Thomas told the Times.
“They’re thinking they’re going to be homeless, because they’re going to have to pay $850 a month.”
Thomas said the new system is more complicated and harder to understand than the old rent subsidies were, but it appears the increases will be “manageable.”
When the new system starts May 1, the society plans to delay collecting the new, higher rents until June so residents receive their rebates first.
If SAFER doesn’t provide enough of a refund to reduce rent to 33 per cent of a person’s income, the society said it will cover the difference.
Residents were told the change will free up money to pay for much-needed maintenance and repairs at the aging wood frame buildings.
Renters at seven residences operated by the Langley Lions Senior Citizens Housing Society (LLSCHS) have lost or will lose subsides.
The support for the Alder, Birch, Cedar and Dogwood buildings operated by LLSCHS ended in 2013 and the subsidies for the Elm and Fir buildings and Centennial Manor will end next year.