Learn about the many financial programs and rental supports available to help low income earners who rent in BC.
Do you live in BC and are struggling to pay your rent? There may be a program or support in this list that can help you get back on track.
Rental Assistance Program
This program is administered by BC Housing and provides eligible low-income, working families with cash to help with their monthly rent payments. There is a calculator to get an estimate of what you could get. You must have a gross (before tax) household annual
income of $40,000 or less to be eligible. Learn more.
The term “subsidized housing” refers to any housing where the government provides monetary assistance to lower the rent. In BC, the two most common forms of subsidized housing are managed by BC Housing. They are the Housing Registry and the Shelter Aid For Elderly Renters, commonly called SAFER.
The Housing Registry is a list of properties or housing facilities either owned by or under an operating agreement with BC Housing.
To qualify for the Housing Registry, you must have a BC address in order to apply, your household income must be below a certain limit and, in general, your assets must be less than $100,000 (including real estate, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, RRSPs). You will need to provide evidence including your bank account balances and so on.
Rental fees are calculated on a rent-geared-to-income-basis: “30% of household gross income, subject to minimum rent based on # of people”. Simply put, your rent is 30% of your gross monthly income, subject to a minimum set amount. Learn more about The Housing Registry.
Shelter Aid For Elderly Renters
SAFER is a cash rent subsidy payable to eligible seniors 60+ who pay rent or pad rent for their housing. Currently, around 17,500 seniors in British Columbia use the SAFER program, which is about one in five senior renters.
According to a survey done by the BC Seniors Advocate, senior renters reported a “fairly high awareness of the SAFER program, with slightly more younger seniors than older seniors having knowledge of it”. Interestingly, the report also mentions that while awareness of SAFER was highest in Vancouver where rents are highest, and SAFER grant usage was greatest in the Interior Health Authority, where household incomes are lower than average.
To be eligible for the SAFER program:
- you must be 60+,
- lived in British Columbia for a full 12 months immediately preceding your application,
- meet citizenship requirements,
- pay more than 30% of your gross (before tax) monthly household income towards the rent for your home, and
- in the Okanagan region, make less than $2,446/month gross income as a single person, or $2,666 for a couple.
You are not eligible if you receive income assistance through the B.C. Employment and Assistance Act or the Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Act (such as PWD). Learn more about SAFER.
Energy Conservation Assistance Program
The BC Hydro & FortisBC Conservation Assistance Program is for low-income households and provides an in-home visit with free energy-saving product installation including energy-saving LED light bulbs, high efficiency showerheads, and weather-stripping to reduce drafts. FortisBC also offers a $25 furnace filter coupon.
BC Hydro Customer Crisis Fund
If you’re a BC Hydro customer and experiencing a temporary financial crisis such as a loss of a job or benefit income, unexpected medical expenses, or a death in the family and you’ve fallen behind on your BC Hydro bill, you may be eligible for a grant payment to avoid disconnection of your service. Learn more.
Home Adaptations for Independence (HAFI)
The Home Adaptations for Independence (HAFI) Program provides financial assistance in the form of a grant. It is given to eligible low-income households to complete home adaptations for independent living. This program is for tenants and landlords, as well as owner occupied homes. Landlords who rent to low-income households can submit a joint application with their tenants to pay for modifications to their rental unit to allow the tenant to live independently.
Most of these programs will look at your assets and/or income to qualify so you will need to have filed a tax return for the most recent tax year. As with many programs, there is an application process that can take weeks or even months.
If you are very much struggling to pay rent immediately, other ideas to source some last minute cash include selling some of your belongings through online avenues like Facebook Marketplace, have a garage sale, or return bottles to the recycling depot.
If you are part of a local church community, sometimes they can help in times of crisis. You can also call your nearest John Howard Society who manages a homeless prevention program. Supports available through this program includes helping people find housing, maintaining positive tenant and landlord relations, and accessing rental subsidies when eligible.