People waiting for or living in social housing in the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) are now limited to $50,000 or less in assets if they want to be eligible for rent-geared-to-income.

Social housing in Ontario is a provincial program, but it is administered by regional governments and large city governments.

Asset limits for rent-geared-to-income (RGI) eligibility have been required by provincial regulation since 2022 and $50,000 is the minimum limit the local authority responsible for social housing may set. Authorities responsible for housing must comply with the regulation by July 1, 2023.  

“We chose the minimum asset limit to help the most vulnerable people in this time of housing crisis,” said UCPR Director Social Services Sylvie Millette, whose department administers social housing in the region.

The idea of placing an asset limit is to prioritize social housing is available for those most in need of a place to live.

Social housing waiting list statistics are released by the UCPR every six months. As of December 2022, there were 1,144 people waiting for social housing across the UCPR.

“For those on the existing wait list whose assets exceed $50,000, they are not eligible for rent-geared-to-income housing and are removed from our waitlist,” Millette said.

There are misconceptions about the asset limit.

“It is a misconception that people are evicted if the household’s asset is above the $50,000 limit,” explained Millette. However, the tenant’s rent will be switched to the market value, but still at a rate which Millette said is affordable.

According to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP) and Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIF) are exempt from what determines household assets.

Additional assets, such as compensation payments for pain and suffering, also may be exempt at the discretion of housing managers. Social assistance clients, who are people receiving payments through Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Support Program, are also exempt from the asset limits, but only when all members of a household are part of the same social assistance benefit unit.

Housing managers also have the flexibility to exempt the household asset limit due to extenuating circumstances such as if the applicant for social housing is a victim of domestic violence or human trafficking.

Millette said it is too early to determine the number of households which no longer qualify for rent-geared-to-income housing in Prescott-Russell. She said they are still waiting for asset reports to come from clients. Social housing tenants in the UCPR have not begun leaving for private sector housing either since the asset limit was introduced.

We have not seen the effect of existing tenants leaving to the private sector due to exceeding asset limits and moving to market rent,” Millette said.

She noted that market-based rent in social housing is still more affordable than in the private sector. Millette said it is also complicated to give a number indicating the difference between RGI housing and market rent because it varies by location, size of unit, and household income.

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