There are still two months to apply for the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement (SRHS), and once that time is done, the Saskatchewan Landlord Association (SKLA) said they are worried it will leave some low income earners without a place to call home.
The SKLA said they believe the Social Service Ministry’s rationale for suspending the program is flawed. They said that while vacancy rates have increased since the SRHS was established in 2005 and rental rates have plateaued, those struggling to get by will still have a difficult time finding an affordable place to live.
The association wants to see the province delay the end of new clients being brought onto the SRHS until more details on the federal Canada Housing Benefit are unveiled. The Canada Housing Benefit is expected in 2020.
Social Services Minister Paul Merriman restated that anyone who applies for the program before June 30 and is approved, or those on the SRHS will still receive their benefits. Merriman said the only way someone will lose benefits is if they become no longer eligible for the program.
The minister added he held a briefing with the SKLA on budget day discussing the upcoming changes.
“We can’t anticipate how many people are going to come onto our system after July 1,” Merriman said. “But whoever does come on, we notice that the market has changed so we want to make sure they have the opportunity to get the best rent in the best facility that they can.”
The SKLA voiced concern that people will have to compromise, living in “substandard” dwellings or being forced to leave their communities in search of affordable rent. The association also claimed there are “insignificant financial supports” provided for housing.
“The suspension of the SRHS is short sighted. While the Ministry believes it will lead to increased savings by the government, the lack of affordable housing options and financial support for those seeking such options, will cause even more of a burden on social services,” SKLA executive officer Chanda Lockhart said.
The province anticipates it will save $5 million by ending the process of taking new applicants into the SRHS, while the SKLA anticipates any savings will be offset by an increased demand on the use of other social services.
“They’re going to have to tap into other resources which will tax out the food banks, the soup kitchens, the shelters and Salvation Army, and those agencies will have a higher demand for folks coming to them for assistance,” Lockhart said.
Additionally, the SKLA argues that the province saying the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation can fill the need for low-income renters will put private landlords at an unfair competitive advantage.
Merriman said the province currently is not getting the best use from its housing stock in the Saskatchewan Housing Authority.
“We do have 3,000 vacant units right now across the province with Sask. Housing. The government has invested in those and we want to make sure those resources are being maximized to their potential,” Merriman said.