Changes to Rent Assist Shelter Benefit Program Will Help Manitobans With Low Incomes Access Better Housing, Improve Stability, Secure Jobs: Minister Chief

Changes to Rent Assist Shelter Benefit Program Will Help Manitobans  With Low Incomes Access Better Housing, Improve Stability, Secure Jobs:  Minister Chief

Legislation that will enhance the Rent Assist shelter benefit and help support low-income earners in Manitoba is now in effect, Jobs and the Economy Minister Kevin Chief announced today.

“Over the next decade Manitoba will need thousands more workers for good careers in skilled and specialized jobs,” said Minister Chief. “Giving people that are training or transitioning to work this stability now, when they need it the most, means they will be there when we need them the most.”

The Rent Assist program provides financial benefits for people who pay more than 25 per cent of their income on rent for a modest apartment in the private market. It is available to low-income earners in Manitoba.

Rent Assist is also available to people on Manitoba Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) and promotes choice, opportunity and social inclusion, the minister said, adding it can be a valuable resource when they pursue training, education and job opportunities.

The portable benefit provides stability in housing, a critical piece of ensuring success in the labour market, the minister said.

“Increasing Rent Assist has been a top community priority for several years,” said Josh Brandon, chair, Make Poverty History Manitoba. “Families should not have to choose between having a home and putting food on the table.

We all have a right to housing, whether we are working, providing caregiving, on disability or on EIA. With today’s announcement, low-income families have better access to housing regardless of employment status. It also provides legislated security that in the future benefits will not be eroded by inflation. We welcome this investment toward putting an end to poverty in Manitoba.”

The benefit is also available to newcomers who are permanent residents of Canada, like refugees, Minister Chief said.

“We welcome new Manitobans from around the world and provide assistance to help them as they adjust to life in our province,” said Labour and Immigration Minister Erna Braun. “Changes to the Rent Assist shelter benefit are one of many resettlement supports for new Manitobans.”

“The upcoming changes to Manitoba Rent Assist will have a huge impact on struggling newcomer families who are often initially paying over 40 per cent of their family income on rent, thereby putting themselves at risk,” said Sally Nelson, executive director, New Journey Housing. “It will not only make regular market rental housing more affordable, but should decrease dependency on the over-burdened social-housing sector, while giving people greater choice over where they want to live. I am excited at the positive impact this program should have in helping newcomers while they are first establishing themselves in Canada.”

The Rent Assist benefit was part of Budget 2015. In July 2015, there was an increase as part of the plan to raise maximum shelter benefits to 75 per cent of median market rent. The proposed December 2015 increase achieves the target of raising maximum benefits to 75 per cent of median market rent two years ahead of schedule, Minister Chief said.