Low income earners have more options than realized
A tight budget could mean the difference between food and a roof over your head but the Rent Subsidy Program administered by the Drumheller Housing Administration (DHA) is designed to put low income earners at ease regardless of their current financial situation.
This program is a subsidy paid directly to someone who has difficulty paying their bills to help assist with their rental costs. “So a lot of it is single mothers with children or people who are on social assistance, just people who have trouble making that monthly rent payment,” said Cass Houston, office administration manager working on behalf of DHA. “They can get on to the program for a one year term and then they would fill out renewal paperwork to get back on the program again for another year.”
The subsidy is based on the difference between 30 per cent of a household’s income and an agreed upon price. This renewal is based on a point system as well as income and current rent. The more points someone has, the higher they get on the waiting list for an available home.
“From there, they are on that plan for a one year term and as long as they bring us in the renewal paperwork and say their income isn’t too high where they’re above that threshold for it then they can stay on it for another one year or if they moved out of the Drumheller District then they would be applying [elsewhere]. If they were moving to Calgary, they would have to apply for Calgary’s rent subsidy program,” said Houston.
The threshold limit was raised from $7,000 to $25,000 at the beginning of 2018. Anyone who has less than this amount in assets is eligible for the program but excludes people who own their home or have a mortgage as the program is focused on renters.
“They need 32 points to qualify for the program,” began Houston. “They receive points if they have children, they get points per child that they have. If they pay utilities they receive points. It is based on the situation of why they are applying so if there was a woman who was fleeing abuse, she would get points for that situation or somebody had to move because there was black mold in their rental then they would get points for that situation so in all those different areas they can be awarded points and then those points have to add up to at least 32 points to get on to the program.”
Whatever the percentage a potential applicant pays for rent equals a certain amount of points that goes towards the 32 point criteria as well. The program was put in place due to high demand as many have trouble providing necessities.
“They wanted the program to relieve some of that stress that people are under,” said Houston. “The government recognized the need that people have and in order to help, that was their solution to the program.”
The program has a limited number of spots which constantly fluctuates as people come and go. Almost 50 people have utilized the program in the Drumheller District alone which includes places like Hanna, Three Hills, Drumheller, Hussar, Dalum and Delia.
“There is a lot of appreciation when someone gets on to the program and it does make you feel good to be able to help people in some small way,” said Houston.
Everyone is encouraged to apply. Successful applications will be kept on file and reviewed when a vacancy is available. The person with the highest need would get this spot.
“It’s very unfortunate that some people are in that situation and it’s great that there is something out there to help them,” said Houston.
The Community Housing Direct to Tenant Rent Supplement Program is another avenue that people can take. It is based on 30 per cent of your income and these units typically have three bedrooms with the intent of a family taking residency. Anyone in any private rental can apply for either program, not just those that rent through a specific realtor and each application is kept confidential.
“We never look down on anyone applying, we just want to be able to help as much as we can,” said Houston.
Anyone interested in these programs can call the Drumheller Housing Administration at 403-823-2121. The DHA’s office is located at 145 3rd Ave West in Drumheller.
“I think they see a big benefit to it, sometimes this program means the difference between somebody being able to buy food or not,” said Houston. “We have people when they’re applying tell us their personal situation and they are using the food bank and they can still barely make ends meet so that means the difference between somebody being able to eat or paying their power bill.”
A row of family community housing units located behind Extra Foods in Drumheller.
Cass Houston sits at her office desk on Thursday, April 5. Houston is the office administration manager working on behalf of the Drumheller Housing Administration (DHA).