BC Basic Income Panel

Research Papers


Applying a Basic Income Lens to British Columbia’s Demand-Side Housing Programs

Jonathan Rhys Kesselman (Simon Fraser University), Michael Mendelson (Maytree Foundation)

This paper reviews the reform of BC’s five major demand-side housing programs to conform more closely to basic income principles of autonomy, accessibility, and dignity. The five programs are: social assistance (SA) shelter allowance; Rental Assistance Program; Shelter Assistance for Elderly Renters; Rent-Geared-to-Income and below-market rental housing; and the Home Owner Grant. The paper first proposes making the SA shelter allowance a flat rate amount (varying only by family size) rather than the current “actual rent up to a maximum”; this would increase autonomy for beneficiaries. The paper then proposes a comprehensive reform: replacing all demand-side programs with a consolidated rent supplement program, provisionally called BC Rent Assist. BCRA would pay a benefit to all low-income renters regardless of their SA status based on their previous year’s income and a fraction of median market rents, not their actual rents. BCRA amounts would phase out with income, and thus the scheme would mimic an income-conditioned basic income.

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Income Support and the Affordability of Housing in British Columbia

Ron Kneebone & Margarita Wilkins (University of Calgary)

In this report we show how current levels of income support in British Columbia are often inadequate for people with very low incomes to maintain housing. We show, however, that this has not always been the case, it is not always the case in all communities, and it is not always the case for all family compositions. This variety of outcomes is due to housing costs varying widely across communities while income support payments are the same regardless of where one lives in the province and due to differences in income support provided to families of different size and composition. The result is a patchwork where maintaining housing is extremely difficult for some family compositions in some communities but far easier for other family compositions or in other communities. We propose a way of modifying how income support is provided so that housing affordability can be improved and maintained over time as housing costs change.

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