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Yukon government rolls out rent subsidy program

The program would cover up to have of rent for tenants in private-sector rental housing. The exact amount depends on apartment size.

Program would cover up to half of rent for tenants in market rental housing who've lost income

Yukon's housing minister Pauline Frost announced a subsidy program for renters Monday. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

The Yukon government is offering financial help to people who are having trouble paying rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the program, the government will cover up to half of rent for people in market housing. The amount of monthly assistance varies, from $415 for a bachelor apartment to $800 month for a three-bedroom.

To qualify, residents must have lost 30 per cent of their income as a result of COVID-19 and must have applied for other sources of government aid.

"Members of our communities are struggling with this new reality," housing minister Pauline Frost told a conference call Monday. "We also know that safe adequate housing is very important."

Tenants in private-sector rental housing who have lost 30 per cent of their income because of the COVID-19 pandemic can apply to have half their rent subsidized. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

It's not yet clear how many jobs the Yukon has lost to the pandemic. But community services minister John Streicker said the government has estimated that between one quarter and one third of renters may need some kind of assistance. 

The program is retroactive to April 1 and runs until the end of June, though Frost said it could be extended. Payments will be made directly to landlords. Frost said the program is also designed to help those landlords, in addition to their tenants.

"Landlords rely on rental income and not all landlords can afford to forego payments even if they understand the difficult position their tenants are in," she said.

Measure overdue, NDP says

In a statement, the Yukon Residential Landlord Association said it supports the program. So does NDP leader Kate White, though she noted B.C. had a similar program in place nearly two months ago.

"It's good news but it's about time, is my takeaway honestly," White said. "It's a good thing but what took so long?"

Earlier this spring, as part of a deal with the NDP to expedite passage of the spring budget, the government banned evictions of people who lost income because of the pandemic.

A spokesman said the government's residential tenancies office has been averaging two or three inquiries per day about rent deferral.

Tenants can also defer rent payments under the program. Those tenants are also eligible for the rent subsidy.

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