Seniors were bypassed for queue to receive rent subsidies, AG finds

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Hundreds of seniors on P.E.I.'s waiting list for affordable housing were bypassed last year when the province began awarding a new batch of rent subsidies, the province's auditor general has found.

In her annual report released today, Auditor General Jane MacAdam criticized the way government manages the extensive waiting list of seniors hoping to land one of 1,245 spots in the province offering subsidized rent.

Overall, the auditor general said the province does not have enough housing to meet the current demand, and has no long-term plan to address housing as the population ages.

She said it's important government have a long-term plan for seniors' housing "to help ensure the vulnerable population it serves will have timely access," and also important that the assessment process and waiting lists be properly managed so that "those most in need are selected for housing units and rent supplements."

Wait list policy inconsistent

MacAdam said the scoring system used to prioritize applications is inconsistently applied by the half-dozen housing officers who conduct assessments.

She found errors in how income was calculated to determine a person's need for affordable housing. And she found when a housing spot did open up, seniors high on the waiting list were often bypassed, with the unit going to someone lower down the list.

In one particular case, the auditor general followed the creation of 25 new rent subsidies in May 2016.

By September 2016, she said six of the subsidies had been awarded but none of them followed wait list policy and in total, hundreds of seniors identified as a higher priority for housing were bypassed.

As in other cases where the waiting list was bypassed, MacAdam said "there was limited documentation to support why exceptions to policy were made."

Seniors with addiction issues bypassed

The auditor general found some seniors on the waiting list were bypassed over and over again.

"We were advised these applicants have addiction issues, behaviour issues, and cleanliness issues," she wrote in her report.

"Housing officers expressed concerns with selecting these individuals for a unit where they may disrupt other tenants in the building."

However the auditor general said there is no policy covering these types of exceptions, which might include requirements that the applicants in question be referred to other services or offered other supports.

Overall MacAdam found the number of seniors's housing units in the province has changed little since 2001, even while the population of seniors has grown steadily.

In her report the auditor general says the province is aware of problems with the waiting list for seniors' housing, and says changes will be made. The report also says the province expects to release a new housing strategy by the end of 2017.

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