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Sask. NDP calls on government to scrap rental supplement changes

Nearly one out of every 10 apartmThe Saskatchewan NDP says the government’s decision to stop taking new applications for the rental housing supplement will hurt those most vulnerable.ents in Saskatoon is available for rent. File / Global News

The Opposition NDP is calling on the Saskatchewan government to reverse its decision to stop taking new clients for the rental housing supplement.

It was announced in the 2018-19 budget that no new applications for the program would be accepted as of July 1.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement to stop taking applicants July 1

The NDP said the program should not be scrapped as it helps many vulnerable people in the province.

“This cut to the housing supplement will only continue to hurt the province’s most vulnerable and those who are already struggling to find a stable living arrangement,” NDP social services critic Trent Wotherspoon said in a statement.

“This callous plan needs to be scrapped before it causes much devastation and hurt to many Saskatchewan families.”

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The government said the cut is to make way for a new national housing strategy being co-developed by Ottawa and the provinces.

The new strategy, however, is at least two years away, which is a concern for NDP Leader Ryan Meili.

“Low income families and people with disabilities depend greatly on this supplement. They can’t afford to have this option taken off the table,” Meili said.

“This is the kind of short-term thinking that hurts people today and costs us all more in the long run.”

READ MORE: Sask. Landlord Association wants government to delay rental supplement changes

The Saskatchewan Landlord Association has previously spoken out against the cut, saying it will leave some low income earners without a place to call home.

It has called on the government to delay implementing the cut until details of the new housing strategy are unveiled.

The government said the decision to stop taking applications was due to rental rates falling and vacancy rate increasing.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) said Saskatchewan had the lowest average rent for a two-bedroom apartment at $1,051 per month in 2017, along with the highest vacancy rate, 8.9 per cent.

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Benefits for the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement range from $61 to $364 per month and the changes are expected to save the government $5 million this year.

Those enrolled in the program as of June 30 will continue to receive benefits as long as they remain eligible.

-With files from David Baxter