The Langley Lions Senior Citizens Housing Society has had to tell tenants it can no longer make up subsidies cut by the provincial government in 2013.
Until three years ago, LLSCHS received rent subsidies directly from the government to help support affordable housing for tenants in the Alder, Birch, Cedar and Dogwood buildings in Langley City. Those subsidies were eliminated in 2013. Since then, LLSCHS has provided internal subsidies for tenants in those buildings.
It has sent out an information package informing tenants of the changes coming in May for most of the buildings.
“This is unsustainable, as LLSCHS needs its funds for its operating costs, including mortgage payments and the cost of maintaining and eventually renewing/replacing our buildings, which are more than 40 years old,” the society’s statement said.
The society has announced two meetings with tenants on Wednesday, Feb. 1. There is a session at 10 a.m. and another at 1 p.m., depending on their building.
“LLSCHS is following the example of other housing societies in BC facing the same issue of disappearing government subsidies for low-income housing and is recommending eligible tenants apply for the BC government’s SAFER housing subsidy,” the society told tenants.
The society has told tenants they can apply to the SAFER program (Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters) and if they don’t qualify, they could receive subsidy help from the society.
The SAFER program is for low- to moderate-income seniors aged 60 and over. The SAFER subsidy is scaled to income.
“One-third of income (33 percent) is generally accepted as a fair percentage for people on low to moderate incomes to pay for housing. However, because of changing circumstances over the years, many Alder, Birch, Cedar and Dogwood tenants currently pay less than 30 percent of their income for their Tenant Unit Contribution,” according to the society’s information package.
In addition to the subsidy, rental rates are being increased closer to market values – $850 for a one bedroom unit and $775 for a bachelor. The society said market rents would be $950 and $850, respectively.
Th changes will take effect May 1 for tenants of the Alder, Birch, Cedar and Dogwood buildings. The changes will also apply to Elm, Fir and Centennial Manor tenants, likely next year when the government subsidies for them end.
Other details have been ironed out for tenants who receive assistance from the BC Ministry of Social Development, because their Tenant Rent Contribution is set by the government.
FAQ sheet provided by the Langley Lions Senior Citizens Housing Society:
Changes to rents and subsidies at LLSCHS
Questions & Answers
Q 1. Why is it necessary to change the way LLSCHS provides rent subsidies?
A. Until three years ago, LLSCHS received rent subsidies directly from the government to help support affordable housing for tenants in the Alder, Birch, Cedar and Dogwood buildings. Those subsidies were eliminated in 2013. Since then, LLSCHS has provided internal subsidies for tenants in those buildings. This is unsustainable, as LLSCHS needs its funds for its operating costs, including mortgage payments and the cost of maintaining and eventually renewing/replacing our buildings, which are more than 40 years old.
Q 2. How are rent subsidies at LLSCHS changing?
A. To continue to provide low-cost housing in Langley, LLSCHS has chosen to follow the path taken by many other housing societies in BC whose direct government subsidies are also ending. This requires making adjustments to our rental structure and making use of a BC government program called SAFER, which provides rent subsidies directly to tenants.
Q 3. What is the SAFER program?
A. SAFER (Shelter Aid For Elderly Renters) is a program to help make rents affordable for seniors with low to moderate incomes. To be eligible for SAFER you must:
Be aged 60 or over
Have lived in BC for a full year prior to applying to SAFER
Be a Canadian citizen or approved for permanent residence in Canada
Pay more than 30 percent of your household income (before taxes) for rent, with no other government rent subsidy
Have a total monthly household income (before taxes) of less than:
For more information about the SAFER program, check the BC Housing website at www.bchousing.org/Options/Rental_market/SAFER
Q 4. How does SAFER work?
A. Currently, LLSCHS tenants in the Alder, Birch, Cedar and Dogwood typically pay up to 30 percent of their income as their Tenant Rent Contribution. This is applied toward the monthly Unit Rent for their apartment. The rest of their Unit Rent is subsidized by LLSCHS. The only exception to this is tenants who receive assistance from the Ministry of Social Development, whose Tenant Rent Contribution is set by the government.
With SAFER, tenants are reimbursed each month for a portion of the rent they pay. The SAFER subsidy will help reduce the level of internal subsidy that LLSCHS has been providing to tenants for the past three years.
Q 5. How is LLSCHS changing its subsidy?
One-third of income (33 percent) is generally accepted as a fair percentage for people on low to moderate incomes to pay for housing. However, because of changing circumstances over the years, many Alder, Birch, Cedar and Dogwood tenants currently pay less than 30 percent of their income for their Tenant Unit Contribution.
With its new approach to rental subsidies, LLSCHS will require all tenants to pay 33 percent of their total income for their Tenant Rent Contribution. This change establishes a more consistent and fair system of rent subsidies for all LLSCHS tenants.
Q 6. Will Unit Rents for LLSCHS apartments also change?
A. Yes. Along with its subsidy changes LLSCHS is adjusting the Unit Rent for its apartments, to more closely reflect current housing costs in the community. Over the years, the monthly Unit Rent for LLSCHS apartments has not kept up with the overall rise in housing costs in Langley. As a result, the Unit Rent for LLSCHS apartments is significantly below the Market Rent for similar apartments in the community.
We have now set a more realistic Unit Rent for all our apartments, although still below Market Rents. The new Unit Rent for one-bedroom apartments in the Alder, Birch, Cedar, and Dogwood buildings will be $850/month, and $775/month for bachelor suites. This is still below Market Rents for comparable units in the community, which are $950 for one-bedroom apartments and $850 for bachelor suites.
Q 7. Do these changes mean I will be paying more for my monthly Tenant Rent Contribution?
A. Depending on your personal situation, your monthly Tenant Rent Contribution will likely be somewhat higher once these changes come into effect.
However, LLSCHS is committed to ensuring no LLSCHS resident pays a Tenant Rent Contribution of more than 33 percent of income. This policy requires that all tenants eligible for SAFER apply for the SAFER subsidy. The policy will not apply to tenants who receive assistance from the BC Ministry of Social Development as their Tenant Rent Contribution is set by the government.
Q 8. What if I don’t qualify for the SAFER subsidy?
A. Many LLSCHS tenants will qualify for SAFER and will be helped by LLSCHS to register for the program. For tenants who don’t qualify for SAFER, LLSCHS will provide subsidy options aligned with SAFER, so that all tenants end up paying about one-third of income for their Tenant Rent Contribution, or the amount set by government for tenants supported by the Ministry of Social Development.
By having all eligible tenants register for SAFER and the subsidy it offers, LLSCHS, like many other housing societies in BC, will be able to ensure its financial viability and meet the challenge of providing low-cost housing for many years to come.
Q 9. What about tenants in the Elm, Fir and Centennial Manor? Why aren’t they also included in these changes?
A. Our subsidy agreements with the government for the Elm, Fir and Centennial Manor don’t expire until later and we currently still receive government subsidies for those buildings. As those subsidies come to an end, tenants in those buildings will be given the same subsidy options we are now offering Alder, Birch, Cedar and Dogwood tenants.
Q 10. How do I register for SAFER?
A. LLSCHS staff will help eligible tenants prepare their applications for the SAFER program. We will also submit all applications to BC Housing on behalf of eligible tenants, to ensure applications are processed as quickly as possible. Tenants are also able to submit their own applications to BC Housing, although this could result in a longer time for approval.
Q 11. When will these changes take effect?
A. We expect to introduce these changes for Alder, Birch, Cedar and Dogwood tenants by May 1, 2017. The same changes will take effect for tenants of the Elm, Fir and Centennial Manor when government subsidies for those buildings end in the coming year.
Q 12. Where can I learn more about these changes and how they will affect my monthly Tenant Rent Contribution?
A. We have scheduled a meeting for LLSCHS tenants to discuss these changes. The meeting will be held in Evergreen Hall on Wednesday, February 1, 2017.
There will be two meetings on that date:
Time: 10:00 am – For Alder and Cedar tenants
1:00 pm – For Birch and Dogwood tenants
After our meetings on February 1, tenants with further questions can come to the LLSCHS office for more information and for help in applying for the SAFER subsidy program.