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.