Excerpt from the Official Report of
DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(Hansard)


May 31, 2018

Shelter Allowance for Income Assistance Recipitants

Hon. S. Simpson: I thank the Leader of the Third Party, though I did lose the bet on getting a question-free session.

I agree with the Leader of the Third Party. Persons on income assistance, persons with disabilities and hundreds of thousands of other people who are living vulnerable and living poor are struggling immensely in this province today. I'm proud of the $100 increase that we put in place, the first increase in over a decade for people on income assistance.

As I said, there are significant numbers of working poor in this province who are struggling as well, and I'm excited that at the end of this week, we're going to have a $1.30 increase in the minimum wage, the first step on the way to a $15.20 minimum wage.

On the issue of housing, the member is correct: it is challenging, as we move forward, but we have many steps that we're taking. I'm excited about the biggest investment in housing in the history of British Columbia in the February budget. I'm excited about the increases around rental assistance programs and SAFER grants. I'm really excited about the 2,000 modular units that are out there being built today, that are being occupied today, that are helping the most vulnerable people in the province, people living homeless, and giving them a place to live. That's progress, and that's leadership. 

The last thing I would say is: we'll bring in the poverty reduction plan, and yes, we're going to deal with housing.

A substantial gap remains between social assistance rates and what is required to maintain a dignified standard of living. That's why during the election the B.C. Greens committed to transitioning people to livable incomes, starting with an increase in social assistance rates by 50 percent above 2017 levels by 2020.

The previous critic on this file said last year: "Every year I ask the minister how on earth they come up with $375 as the shelter allowance for income assistance, because there's nowhere in B.C. that's available for $375." I would agree with her, but unfortunately, this remains true today, and the average rent of a bachelor apartment in Vancouver is over $1,000 a month.

My question, again, to the Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction is this: will you increase the shelter allowance as part of the forthcoming poverty reduction program and strategy?

Hon. S. Simpson: We have 557,000 people living in poverty in this province. We've had the highest rates of poverty for over a decade and a half, pretty much every year, and certainly the highest rates around child poverty.

We have challenges. We need to deal with the affordability questions that the member's talking about. We need to create opportunities for people to break the cycle of poverty. We need to deal with the issues of social isolation and social inclusion for people struggling in poverty, whether they be the 100,000 children living in poverty, the Indigenous and the disabled who are living in poverty.

We're going to do that. We're going to bring legislation this fall that will legislate the poverty reduction plan, and British Columbia will no longer be the only province in this country without a poverty plan. We will end that this fall. We will bring the plan shortly after, and we will address those issues of improving the lives of people in this province, including on the housing issue.

https://www.leg.bc.ca/documents-data/debate-transcript/201805301330-House?timestamp=20180530142915

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