More seniors are facing potential homelessness than ever before, according to a recent report from the United Way BC.
Almost one in five senior-led renter households are spending 50 per cent or more of their income on housing, the report states.
“A 70-year-old, dependent on government benefits (CPP, OAS, GIS, and the BC Seniors Supplement), would spend 78 per cent of their income to rent an average one-bedroom apartment in B.C. ($1,432).”
The rising cost of living, inadequate retirement incomes, and limited affordable housing options as cited as contributing factors.
“Currently, more than 15 per cent of seniors are considered low income, and in 2020, one in four had after-tax incomes below $21,800 which is almost $10,000 below the minimum wage.”
Access to subsidized rent-geared-to-income seniors’ housing has been declining, and low-cost private market options are dwindling.
The report also found that there is a growing number of seniors who are unsheltered or living in substandard or unsafe housing situations.
Many are finding themselves on the verge of homelessness for the first time in their 60s and 70s.
Housing uncertainty and homelessness are taking a significant toll on the physical and mental health of seniors the report states.
“For example, one frontline service provider said that over half of their clients experiencing housing precarity talk openly about whether they want to live anymore.”
The United Way makes several recommendations in the report it says would significantly contribute to achieving housing affordability for seniors, and other low-income individuals.
They include encouraging more investment and development in non-profit and low-income housing developments and increasing financial assistance for low and moderate-income seniors living in private market rentals.
The report was prepared by United Way BC and the Housing Working Group, a committee of the Community Based Seniors’ Services Leadership Council.