'A perfect storm': Saskatoon agencies critical of income assistance reform
Rent arrears are piling up. Homelessness is rising. And affordable housing agencies in Saskatoon are grappling with evictions from people on social assistance.
“It’s becoming a perfect storm quite honestly,” said Quint Development Corporation executive director Len Usisken.
One factor is a change to income assistance programs through the Ministry of Social Services, he said.
In 2019 the ministry announced the creation of the Saskatchewan Income Support (SIS) program, replacing the Saskatchewan Assistance Program (SAP) and Transitional Employment Allowance (TEA).
According to Cameron Choquette, CEO of the Saskatchewan Landlords Association, in August all income assistance recipients were moved to SIS with a few alterations:
- Eliminating direct payment to rental housing and utility providers
- Centralizing benefit administration to a largely online system
- Only providing a security deposit once every two years
- Consolidating rent and utility payments, effectively reducing the overall benefits provided by the program and significantly reducing emergency funding and overpayments to clients, even in extreme circumstances.
The elimination of the direct payment to rental housing and utility providers is driving up arrears and evictions, Choquette said.
“Now all direct payments are provided to the client rather than the rental housing provider and at that point the client has the decision to make whether or not they want to pay rent or if they are going to spend that money on other items in life, which has increased the arrears in the province,” Choquette said.
In a 2019 survey conducted by the landlords association and Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership, 93 per cent of rental housing providers predicted that the SIS program would lead to increased evictions and homelessness, Choquette said.
In a recent survey of 2,500 rental units, 30 per cent of SIS clients hadn’t paid their rent for September at all and another 18 per cent had only paid a portion, Choquette said.
With 95 affordable rental housing units a vast majority of Quint Development Corp. clients are receiving a form of income assistance.
Usisken said rent arrears have slowly been adding up and in September, Quint finds itself with $9,000 in rental arrears in one of its apartment buildings.
He’s looking at sending out a record 11 eviction notices for hard-to-house families. In a normal year he’d issue five.
Usisken said at Quint’s buildings there’s an increase in people trying to break in to sleep in hallways or stay on friends’ couches, creating safety concerns for staff and tenants.
In June the City of Saskatoon’s Community Support program reported a spike in calls for service from people experiencing homelessess. (https://saskatoon.ctvnews.ca/it-s-so-frustrating-more-people-sleeping-outside-in-saskatoon-community-support-officers-say-1.5473369)
Usisken said it’s time the ministry re-evaluated its delivery of income assistance because it’s not working.
“Government policy should not be exacerbating the problem. They’re making lives harder for poor people, they’re increasing homelessness and they’re putting in jeopardy a lot of the housing providers' financial sustainability to be able to provide that housing.”
“Landlords are frustrated,” Choquette said. “The government is once again putting the arrears of income assistance clients on the backs of community housing agencies and private sector landlords.”
Choquette recently met with Minister of Social Services Lori Carr, explaining how the elimination of the direct payment option to housing agencies and utility providers has created systemic barriers for those on social assistance to retain safe and affordable housing.
He’s asking the ministry to bring back components of the old SAP program to ensure income assistance dollars go towards housing and utilities.
He said the ministry has expressed commitment to further dialogue and Choquette said he will continue to report what arrears and evictions look like.
Doris Morrow, the ministry’s executive director of income assistance program design, said in a statement that the Saskatchewan Income Support program helps people who are on income assistance overcome challenges, earn more income, become more self-sufficient and start a career or participate in their communities.
“Clients on the Saskatchewan Income Support program are responsible for paying their rent, security deposits and utilities directly to landlords and utility companies, just like any other citizen,” Morrow said.
She said the ministry has been reaching out to landlords and housing agencies encouraging landlords to speak to tenants about setting up recurring direct-rent payments.
The ministry said it can also make arrangements for a trustee to help mange funds and become more self-sufficient.
However, the trustee option is one that’s not automatically offered and is something Kayleigh LaFontaine, executive director with Elizabeth Fry Society Saskatchewan said is something she’s had to advocate for her clients.
“There are some hoops that social services have put in place and it’s not something that is presented to clients, it does take some advocacy,” she said.
“At two-and-a-half years later, especially through a pandemic we’re seeing this is not working so where’s the re-evaluating and see how these people can be best supported?”
Not all affordable housing agencies are seeing increases in arrears and evictions. But with many income assistance clients switching to the new program, Camponi Housing Corp. sees issues coming down the road.
“At this time we don’t see significant negative impacts on our arrears, evictions or tenants,” said Ruebecca Fiddler, project manager with Camponi Housing.
She said Camponi has been proactively working with tenants explaining how the new SIS program might affect their housing as well as offering easier ways tenants can pay rent.
“We do however, anticipate individuals that are being switched over, will experience more issues with budgeting and prioritizing resources especially as we near the holiday season,” Fiddler said.
“We fear that these challenges will increase housing instability and homelessness for the province as a whole, not just our portfolio.”
Saskatoon Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
The gang that kidnapped a group of 17 American and Canadian missionaries in Haiti has asked for US$1 million each for their release, a top Haitian official said Monday, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Pfizer has asked Health Canada to approve the first COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 years old. It was authorized for people at least 16 years old last December, and for kids between 12 and 15 in May.
Alberta's two major cities are set to make history in their mayoral races after Monday's municipal elections across the province.
Tk'emlúps te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that his visit to the First Nation community Monday is 'bittersweet' following his notable absence from their ceremony to recognize the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
As polls in the Alberta municipal elections are set to close, voters in the province have also been given the chance to voice their opinions on federal equalization payments.
More COVID-19 booster shots may be on the way -- but when it's your turn, you'll get an extra dose of the original vaccine, not one updated to better match the extra-contagious delta variant. And that has some experts wondering if the booster campaign is a bit of a missed opportunity to target delta and its likely descendants.
A man charged with raping a woman on a commuter train just outside of Philadelphia harassed her for more than 40 minutes while multiple people held up their phones to seemingly record the assault without intervening, authorities said.
Having a clear and honest discussion about your financial situation and money mindset before you walk down the isle just seems to make sense, but it isn't always easy, CTV's chief financial commentator Pattie Lovett-Reid writes in her latest column on CTVNews.ca.
China's parliament will consider legislation to punish parents if their young children exhibit 'very bad behaviour' or commit crimes.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe will address the province’s ICU capacity Monday morning following a record-breaking weekend for COVID-19 patients in the ICU.
A Regina man is facing charges after allegedly threatening the lives of an elected official and an official with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health.
The Regina Police Service has started an investigation after a man was found dead in the North Central neighbourhood Monday afternoon.
The pastor of a church near Steinbach has been arrested after attending and organizing public protests, the church said.
A “serious assault” in Winnipeg’s North End has forced road closures in the area, according to Winnipeg police.
Manitoba's health minister has apologized after appearing in a photo breaking the indoor mask mandate at an event over the weekend.
There are currently 4,917 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C., including 521 active cases in the Island Health region, according to the B.C. ministry of health.
Early reports indicate that everyone has been accounted for after a floatplane capsized in Tofino, B.C. on Monday afternoon.
A legal battle is brewing between two of Canada's largest defence contractors over upgrades to a pair of New Zealand navy warships in British Columbia.
Jyoti Gondek has been declared as Calgary's next mayor.
Monday is more than a mayoral race. There are also 14 council seats up for grabs, including nine that will see new council members elected, (plus a new mayor). Here's a rundown on the results as they roll in:
George Chahal addressed the controversy surrounding an episode on federal election night, calling his decision to remove a piece of campaign literature promoting his opponent "a dumb mistake."
The Toronto rapper who was wanted for murder before he was arrested earlier this month in Los Angeles is a member of a criminal gang who organized a botched hit trying to target his brother's killer, according to documents unsealed in an American extradition hearing.
Ontario's police watchdog has cleared a Niagara Parks Police Service officer of criminal wrongdoing in the death of a man who went over the Niagara Falls waterfall in June.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is being asked to apologize for 'divisive' comments made on Monday about immigrants coming to Ontario 'to collect the dole.'
NEW THIS MORNING
NEW THIS MORNING | COVID-19 in Ottawa: Fast Facts for Oct. 19, 2021
The latest on COVID-19 in Ottawa for Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021.
The family of an Ottawa man who has been missing since Thursday is offering a $10,000 reward for tips that lead to him being found.
Ottawa's Confederation Line LRT will remain shut down for at least another two weeks, possibly more, according to a new memo from city staff.
The trip comes after the Prime Minister ignored a pair of invitations to join the community on Sept. 30, the country’s first ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Experts say to understand what the numbers actually mean about your risk of a breakthrough case that lands you in hospital, you have to look at rates within the population, rather than the raw data.
Troubling allegations of lies and a cover-up are emerging in the electrocution of a B.C. woman and her two dogs six years ago.
Montreal police are looking for multiple suspects after a teenager was fatally stabbed near his school in Cote-des-Neiges Monday afternoon, staggering inside to seek help.
Two employees of an armoured car company were assaulted and robbed late Monday evening in Montreal's north end by a pair of thieves who fled with an undetermined amount of money.
Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante and the Montreal Fire Department paid tribute to Pierre Lacroix on Monday after his body was retrieved from the St. Lawrence River, where he died performing a water rescue.
Amarjeet Sohi won a sizable victory in Edmonton's mayoral race, while incumbent city councillors had a mixed night.
Anirniq remained too close to call Monday night with two candidates in a tight battle to become councillor.
Even with 17 out of 20 polls reporting, Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi remained too close to call.
A seven-year-old child has died while out on a walk with his mother on a logging road in Nova Scotia's Cumberland County.
Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting one COVID-19 related death, along with 53 new and 138 recoveries on Monday, as the total number of active cases in the province drops to 849.
Health officials in Nova Scotia are reporting 72 new cases of COVID-19 and 63 recoveries since Friday, as the number of active cases rises to 208.
Greater Sudbury Police have charged a 32-year-old man with attempted murder following a series of violent events early Saturday morning.
A foodservice industry group is calling for a continuation of wage and rent subsidy programs as restaurants look to rebound from COVID-19 restrictions. Restaurants Canada said eight out of 10 establishments across the country will need help getting through the fall and winter seasons.
Smooth Rock Falls is excited about the dozens of new families who've moved to its town and is looking forward to more relocating here with the opening of a new industrial park where a forestry company once operated.
Recent data from the Middlesex-London Health Unit shows that the number of active cases in school aged children has dropped significantly as case numbers in general have declined over recent weeks.
The Mayor of London says he will be filing a complaint with the integrity commissioner against a fellow member of city council.
The jury at the second-degree murder trial of Karl Hallman, 30, heard how a night of socializing in January of 2019 turned violent.