VICTORIA – The advocate for seniors in British Columbia says costs for both renters and homeowners are going up while home and community supports are failing to meet demands.
Isobel Mackenzie released her annual report Thursday saying increased costs and lack of services could drive up the number of seniors moving into residential care.
Mackenzie said up to 15 per cent of seniors already in care could be living independently if they had proper supports.
Seniors who rent are at greatest risk because they have the lowest median income of any group over age 25 and unlike the rest of the population, face challenges with fixed incomes, she said.
“Seniors’ income only rise by the rate of inflation,” she said, referring to Old Age Security and the Canada Pension Plan. “Private pensions can rise at the rate of inflation, sometimes they don’t rise at all, and those who are living off investment incomes will see fluctuations.”
While income remains relatively stagnant, the report says rent for a one-bedroom apartment has gone up by an average of 6.7 per cent in B.C.
Mackenzie said “extraordinary pressures” on rents in the last five to six years have also made seniors less attractive tenants to landlords.
“Ten years ago landlords wanted to keep seniors as their renters because they were good tenants and they were guaranteed their rents and landlords weren’t necessarily increasing their rent every year,” she said.
Today, landlords make more money if they rent to new tenants, she said during a conference call.
Mackenzie has again recommended the government help seniors stay in their homes by increasing the elderly renters’ subsidy cap.
She said she wants to see the province build more rental units in rural communities where stock is inadequate.
More than 80 per cent of seniors own their homes, but the report found they are also feeling the effects of rising costs.
The report says the number of homeowners who applied for property tax deferment this year nearly doubled to 10,775.
Property taxes and utilities have increased significantly, making the deferment program an attractive option for homeowners, Mackenzie said.
The proportion of seniors in B.C. is growing, now making up 18.4 per cent of the population compared with only 17.9 per cent last year.
While there are many home care and community programs to support those living independently, Mackenzie said the number of services for seniors aren’t keeping pace with the growth in population.
—By Linda Givetash in Vancouver.