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Alberta woman frustrated to learn provincial review means she is not on rent supplement program waitlist

Albertans in limbo as province reviews rental-supplement programs
WATCH ABOVE: Some low-income Albertans say their voices aren’t being heard and their lives are in limbo while the province reviews rental-supplement programs. Vinesh Pratap spoke to one person who said their attempts to talk with the minister have gone nowhere.

With two rent supplement programs currently under review by the provincial government, an Alberta woman hoping to be on the waitlist for one of them says she is frustrated.

Deirdre St. Luke receives benefits through the Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped program (AISH) and told Global News she put herself on a waitlist for a rent supplement program years ago in an effort to improve her living situation.

But St. Luke said shortly before the new year, the provincial government told her some disappointing news.

“They said basically there is no list,” she said. “Everybody’s been cut off.

“They’re saying, ‘We’re only doing this so we can review the program.’ Come on, do I have ‘stupid’ tattooed on my forehead?”

In an email to Global News, Natalie Tomczak, the press secretary for Seniors and Housing Minister Josephine Pon, confirmed a pair of rent supplement programs are currently under review and that “as a result, no new applications are being accepted at this time.”

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“We are making thoughtful, focused and prudent decisions to ensure that supports for vulnerable Albertans are sustainable for future generations,” Tomczak said. “Work is underway to align our rental assistance programs with the new Canada Housing Benefit to ensure we are making the most effective use of federal funding and meeting Alberta’s needs for affordable housing.

“We are working to have new programs in place to align with the beginning of the Canada Housing Benefit in April 2020.”

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READ MORE: Alberta, feds set to clash over cash for new rent supplement

The two programs currently under review are the Private Landlord Rental Supplement and the Direct to Tenant Rent Supplement, which had a combined budget of $67 million for 2019.

According to the Ministry of Seniors and Housing, approximately 3,600 households were being served by the PLRS as of Sept. 30, 2019, while about 5,700 households were being served by DTRS in that same time period.

READ MORE: UCP government launches online survey to get Albertans’ input on upcoming budget

NDP MLA Lori Sigurdson served as seniors and housing minister under the previous government. She told Global News on Monday that the review of the rental supplement programs feels like the latest round of what she called “attack after attack on individual Albertans.”

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“Nothing more needs to be studied,” Sigurdson said, arguing that such programs have been known to provide cost savings for the government because they reduce stress on other government services like health care. “We know this. This is old news.

“The government needs to act.”

St. Luke said while she is frustrated about the uncertainty facing her attempt to access rent support, she imagines her situation is less frustrating than others.

“There are people in situations that are much worse and it’s them that I’m angry for,” she said.

–With files from Global News’ Vinesh Pratap