Elderly couple dropped from Yukon Housing waitlist after gov't policy change
After a health scare three years ago, Tor Forsberg, 75, and her 81-year-old husband Paul Tubb of Watson Lake, Yukon, put themselves on a list for seniors wanting to live in social housing.
"We were getting older and I thought, I'm gonna apply for Yukon Housing because I knew there would be a time when we wouldn't be able to manage here," Forsberg said.
Last month, a letter came in the mail from Yukon Housing. Instead of finding out that they'd made it to the top of the list, Forsberg says they were shocked to learn that they are no longer eligible for social housing because they have too many assets.
The couple own the 30-year-old trailer they now call home, and also own a 12-year-old truck and a 27-year-old camper van. Forsberg says Yukon Housing told them that the estimated value of their possessions was just above the $100,000 cut-off to qualify for social housing.
"Everything is really well-maintained, everything works," says Forsberg. "We're happy, we're comfortable, everything's paid for, but to qualify for social housing, we'd need to sell it all and rent an apartment.
"I don't know if we could even find an apartment, but even if we did we'd have to wait until we ran out of money to get back on Yukon Housing's waiting list."
The couple's predicament is the result of a recent policy shift which changes the way Yukon Housing allocates available units.
Laura Lang, director of policy and communications for Yukon Housing, says changes have been made in direct response to recommendations in a 2022 auditor general's report.
She points to section 28 of the report, which addresses the fact that seniors with more than $100,000 worth of assets could be eligible for social housing while non-seniors with more than $100,000 in assets were not.
"It was noted that applying different eligibility criteria for seniors meant that the corporation was providing social housing to seniors who may have been able to afford other types of housing," says Lang.
"So as a point of equity for all Yukoners, we agreed with the findings and said yes, we will apply the same asset cap for all people."
Forsberg says the revised policy, combined with the cost of housing and the lack of supply, means she and her husband are being forced into a very precarious situation.
"We won't be able to get a cheap apartment, there's no such thing, and we still have to maintain a vehicle and have cell phones. When the money runs out, we can reapply and maybe then we'll be eligible," she said.
"I have a friend here that applied eight years ago and just got offered a place recently."
Forsberg says that she knows a lot of other people like her, who live modestly and have managed to acquire some assets but were counting on the support of Yukon Housing when they couldn't maintain their homes anymore.
Lang says Yukon Housing does not have enough stock to support everyone in need, and that is why they have eligibility criteria.