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Seniors especially hard-hit by housing crisis: advocates

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Summary

According to BC's seniors' advocate, a grant designed to help elderly renters hasn't kept pace with rent increases

The BC government says addressing the housing crisis is its top priority

Seniors' advocates say housing un-affordability has left the elderly in a dire situation around the Lower Mainland

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The debate over Vancouver’s housing crisis usually focuses on millennial, but advocates say seniors are being left in a dire situation –to the brink of homelessness even– as rents skyrocket and the number of affordable housing units dwindles.

BC’s seniors’ advocate Isobel Mackenzie says rents have risen 45 per cent while a provincial subsidy for elderly renters has only gone up by nine per cent.

“Obviously the same rent increases that everybody’s experiencing, seniors are experiencing,” she explains. “But seniors have disproportionately lower incomes than other folks, and they have other health challenges that they have to pay out of pocket for.”

Mackenzie also says the number of seniors’ subsidized housing units have decreased nearly five per cent since 2013, while wait lists have grown.

She believes a provincial grant designed to help elderly renters hasn’t kept pace with rent increases.

“Suddenly, the compounding effect presents the stark reality that we have today which is the huge gap between the SAFER cap of $765 in the Lower Mainland, and the rent most people are paying, which is now over $1,000. So it’s a big gap to try and close.”

According to the 411 Seniors Centre Society, elderly residents don’t usually have the opportunity to find work if they can’t afford rent, forcing them to have to stay with friends, live in their cars or sleep on the streets.

“A lot of that going on with old people,” says the society’s Linda Forsythe. “That used to happen a lot with young people and they could tolerate it quite well and sort of get on with their lives.”

Anthony Kupferschmidt, with the West End Seniors’ Network, says high rents are forcing seniors to make choices such as paying rent or buying groceries and more seniors are asking for help finding roommates.

Seniors are enduring the same rent hikes as other tenants in Vancouver, but have disproportionately lower incomes and higher medical costs.

The BC government says addressing the housing crisis is its top priority and it’s working on a long-term, comprehensive plan it will roll out in its February budget.