Politics

Low-income renters can get a one-off $500 federal payment. How much will it help struggling tenants?

Anti-poverty advocates say a one-off federal payment of $500 for low-income renters will do little to help tenants who are struggling to make ends meet each month.

Anti-poverty advocates say the payment will give short-lived relief to tenants struggling to afford rent

A sign outside the Canada Revenue Agency is seen Monday May 10, 2021 in Ottawa.
Applications for the one-time top-up to the Canada Housing Benefit close on March 31, 2023. In this photo, a Canada Revenue Agency building in Ottawa is pictured on May 10, 2021. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

As rising rental prices strain many tenants' budgets, some low-income renters can now apply for a one-off $500 payment from the federal government to help ease their housing costs.

But tenant advocates say the payment will offer very limited relief for people whose monthly budgets are continually stretched by the rising cost of living amid a lack of affordable housing.

Are you a low-income renter who is eligible for the one-off $500 payment? We want to hear from you at ask@cbc.ca

Here's a breakdown of who can get the one-time top-up to the Canada Housing Benefit, and how to apply.

Who is eligible?

To qualify, renters must be tax residents of Canada, and at least 15 years old as of Dec. 1. Other criteria include:

  • In 2021, your individual income was $20,000 or less, or your family income was $35,000 or less.
  • Applicants must have filed 2021 income tax returns.
  • The amount of rent you paid in 2022 was equal to at least 30 per cent of your 2021 income.

You do not need to be receiving other housing benefits to apply.

There are some extra rules if you have roommates, pay for meals or other services, or pay rent to a relative, as well as a few other living situations.

Anti-poverty advocates say while the one-off payment is welcome, they would like to see all levels of government take greater strides to create and protect affordable housing for low-income earners. Here, a no-vacancy sign is pictured in Vancouver on Nov. 21. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

How do I apply?

You can apply online through CRA My Account or My Service Canada Account, or through this online application form if you're not registered for either online service. You can also apply by calling the Canada Revenue Agency on 1-800-282-8079.

You'll need to provide any addresses you lived at in 2022, and the amount of rent you paid at each. You will also need to give your landlord's name and contact information. If you have a spouse or common-law partner, you'll need their 2021 tax return information.

The last day you can apply is March 31, 2023.

What else should I know?

The CRA says applicants will receive the one-off payment within five to 12 business days, with online applications processed slightly faster than phone applications. People who do not set up direct deposit details online might have to wait a few extra days for cheques to arrive in the mail.

The payment won't affect any other federal income-tested benefits, such as the Canada Workers Benefit, Canada Child Benefit or Guaranteed Income Supplement, and you don't need to report it on your income tax return.

How are advocates responding?

While the federal government touted the payment as "immediate relief" for low-income Canadians, anti-poverty advocates told CBC News that the relief will be short-lived.

"It is very much a small drop in the bucket," said Dania Majid, staff lawyer at the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO), pointing to rising demand at food banks as more Canadians struggle to afford their bills.

"It might help for one month, but what's the family going to do the next month?"

Dania Majid, a staff lawyer at the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) in Toronto, says the payment is 'a drop in the bucket' for low-income Canadians. (Danielle Maheu/Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario)

Bader Abu-Zahra, from advocacy group ACORN, said the $500 payment would be "instrumental" in helping his organization's members pay outstanding rent or some of their next month's rent, but added that many were spending more than 50 per cent of their income on rent each month.

"If the government wants to do something to help solve the housing crisis, they need to address the financialization of housing," Abu-Zahra said in an email.

Advocates said more needs to be done to protect and create affordable housing stock for low-income earners, as well as cracking down on property flipping and limiting the amount by which landlords can hike rents, including between tenancies.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura McQuillan is an online journalist with CBC News in Toronto. She covers general news, social issues and science and has a special interest in finding unexpected answers to unusual questions. Laura previously reported from New Zealand and Brazil.

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