How does housing work with income assistance?
What follows is a general overview of income assistance and housing, though individual situations can vary. Income assistance is one of the most common forms of social assistance that people access.
In BC, people who are eligible for income assistance can get money every month to cover two types of expenses:
- Support—everyday living costs, such as food and clothing
- Shelter—housing costs, including rent, utilities, and basic phone services
The amount of money that people receive depends on factors such as the type of income assistance they qualify for (e.g., basic income assistance, disability assistance, persons with persistent multiple barriers benefits) and the number of dependents who live with them (e.g., a partner, underage children). Lower income seniors renting in the private market may be eligible for a rent supplement through the Shelter Aid For Elderly Renters (SAFER) program.
If you would like to apply for disability assistance and other benefits, you can get help from the Disability Alliance of BC. People living on reserve can get help from their band social development worker or the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society
The maximum shelter allowance for all types of monthly income assistance is the same.
It starts at $375 for one person, with small additional amounts for each dependent in the family. (Learn more here.)
Because of housing prices, the shelter allowance does not cover the full costs of most housing in BC. Many people must use money from their support allowance, earnings from work, or other kinds of income to pay for housing.
To get the shelter allowance, people applying for income assistance need to provide their landlord’s contact information, in case the government wants to confirm where they live and how much their rent is. People already receiving income assistance who then find rental housing must get their landlord to sign a form for the government.
People who do not have housing costs will not receive the shelter allowance.
Note: “Room and board” describes a situation where people pay or do work in exchange for food and a place to live. If people receiving income assistance pay for room and board, the government may cover it and provide a reduced support allowance.
Other Housing-Related Benefits
People who receive income assistance may be able to access additional benefits, depending on whether their payments are made through the federal government (for those who live on a reserve) or the provincial government (for those who do not live on a reserve).
Individuals who receive income assistance through Indigenous Services Canada may be eligible for benefits called special allowances. Those who are interested should talk to their band social development worker to see what is available to them.
- Moving and living costs. This is for families who must move to a new home.
- Special needs. This one-time payment is for emergencies.
Individuals who receive income assistance through BC’s Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction may be eligible for benefits called supplements. There are no application forms. Those who are interested should talk to a ministry worker to see if they qualify.
- Security deposit. People who can’t afford a security deposit for rental housing can get a loan. The government takes $20 off each income assistance cheque until the loan is paid back.
- Utility security deposit. People who can’t afford a security deposit for a utility such as electricity can get a loan. The government takes $20 off each income assistance cheque until the loan is paid back.
- Prenatal shelter supplement. People who are pregnant, single, have no dependent children, and whose current or future housing costs more than $375 per month can get an increase to their monthly shelter allowance of up to $195.
- Co-operative housing share purchase supplement. People moving into a housing co-op who can’t afford to buy the required shares can get a loan of 50%, up to $850. The government takes money off each income assistance cheque until the loan is paid back, or waits until the resident leaves the co-op or stops receiving income assistance to be paid back.
- Moving costs. This supplement applies to people who are moving for specific reasons outlined by the ministry and requires preapproval.
- Crisis grant. This supplement is for unexpected emergencies, which can include housing-related items such as shelter, electricity, and water. It does not need to be paid back. There are limits to how much you can receive for each item and how many times you can receive the grant in one year.