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Sask. Rental Housing Supplement replacement planned for March: minister

Social Services Minister Paul Merriman plans on bringing the Canada Housing Benefit pitch to cabinet later in January for final approval, before passing it along to Ottawa. Dave Parsons / Global News

Saskatchewan’s social services minister expects to make a formal announcement on the replacement to the Saskatchewan Rental Housing Supplement (SRHS) in late February or March.

The provincial government stopped taking new SRHS clients on June 30, 2018. Benefits ranged from $61 to $364 per month.

At the time, Social Services Minister Paul Merriman said that rental vacancy rate was improving and a replacement would come through the national housing strategy’s Canada Housing Benefit sometime in 2020.

Now, Merriman plans on bringing Saskatchewan’s Canada Housing Benefit pitch to cabinet later this month.

“We’re looking at targeting people where their rent is in and around 50 per cent of their overall income,” Merriman said.

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

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“Those are the ones that we want to make sure are not coming into the social service system, and if we can help them stay in the position that they are – we want to help them do that.”

In the meantime, Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said the SRHS replacement plan is long overdue.

“It just reminds us what a completely ridiculous notion that was that they cancelled the rental housing supplement over two years ago without knowing what the replacement would be, so we’ve had people stuck without support all this time,” Meili said.

Meili added this is another step from the Sask. Party government in making it more difficult for people accessing rental supports. This includes ending direct rent payments to landlords, a move property owners have also criticized.

“We’ve heard some constructive criticism from the landlord’s association, and some from our clients, but it seems to be working out fairly well right now,” Merriman said.

READ MORE: ‘How arrogant’: Anti-poverty advocates slam Sask. Income Support program

“That’s why we wanted to make sure this federal government backstop is helping as much as we can to prevent people coming onto social services.”

The Canada Housing Benefit is a cost-sharing program between Ottawa, the provinces and territories. Proposals are due later in the spring.

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Adam Vaughan, parliamentary secretary in charge of housing for the minister of families, children and social development, said he’s looking forward to seeing Saskatchewan’s rent supplement plan.

“If you have a housing benefit, if you move you can take that with you. So it’s a portable benefit,” Vaughan said.

“It’s the first of its kind in the country’s history. It’s a critical part of the national housing strategy.”

On Dec. 19, 2019, Ontario became the first province to announce a joint funding agreement with Ottawa through the Ontario-Canada Housing Benefit. That deal will see a joint investment worth $1.4 billion.

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