As the province continues to post the country’s highest average rental prices, B.C.’s 2022 budget focuses on housing at-risk youth and others experiencing homelessness – while making no mention of its long awaited rebate for renters.
The budget includes $633 million over three years, with the largest totals going toward supporting youth at risk of being homeless, those who have been sheltered in recent years and those still experiencing homelessness.
The province secured shelter spaces when the pandemic first hit and, with COVID-19’s impact’s lingering, $264 million over three years will go into maintaining housing supports for up to 3,000 people who were temporarily sheltered in government-leased hotel and other spaces.
Just over $100 million of those funds, for capital investments and operating costs, will go toward of transitioning those people into permanent spaces. Another $150 million is set aside for extending temporary spaces for individuals as permanent spots become available.
Overlapping mental-health challenges and substance-use issues among vulnerable people getting housed led the province to fund the rollout of 20 complex care sites province-wide for about 500 people before the end of 2025. That comes with a price tag of $164 million.
The province is also rolling out a $600-a-month rent supplement for former youth in care under the age of 27 who are at risk of homelessness. The province said about half of all youth who receive government care end up homeless at some point in their lives.
A separate homelessness-response program aims to provide more than 3,000 people with a $600 monthly rent supplement to help them access market housing by the end of 2025
Another $100 million from the 2022 fiscal year will fund the development of mixed-income rental housing for low-income families.
The rent supplement strategy for vulnerable groups is a shift for a government that has announced, but not delivered, a renters rebate during the past two election cycles, with the B.C. NDP in 2020 promising $400 for households who make up to $80,000 a year.
B.C.s pandemic-sprung rent freeze expired at the end of 2021, with landlords able to increase tenant payments by 1.5 per cent this year. Meanwhile, B.C. had the most expensive average January rental price ($2,181) in Canada, according to Rentals.ca report from last month.