People receiving a veterans disability pension or benefits for a child with a disability in Nova Scotia could soon see their public housing rent decrease.
A recent change in policy means the province will no longer include child disability benefits or the veterans disability pension when calculating how much rent someone will pay in public housing.
"Those in social housing tend to be on the margins, not wealthy," said Peter Kerr, who sits on the Seniors Advisory Council of Nova Scotia as representative of the National Association of Federal Retirees.
"To have an extra $100 of disposable income is a bonus."
Kerr has been fighting for the change since 2008. He said he's not sure how many people it will help, but he's happy to see it happen.
'The right thing to do'
On average, public housing residents pay $456 a month rent. There are more than 17,000 Nova Scotians living in public housing units across the province. However, only 35 people living in public housing receive the veterans disability pension.
This policy change means someone receiving the veterans disability pension would see their public housing rent decrease by as much as $100 per month. A family receiving the child disability benefit could save about $60 per month.
"It was just a feeling that this was the right thing to do," said John Lohr, the minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
"We wanted to make housing more affordable for veterans and for people who are severely mentally or physically disabled children who are receiving the child disability benefits. So we're doing it."
The policy change will take effect Dec. 1. Government staff will contact tenants and rent-supplement clients to confirm if they are eligible. Tenants will also be able to discuss eligibility with their local housing authority.
Legion backs change
Valerie Mitchell-Veinotte, the executive director of the Nova Scotia/Nunavut Royal Canadian Legion, said the policy change had been a long time coming.
"The Royal Canadian Legion absolutely applauds the government of Nova Scotia for this initiative, and we are extremely encouraged that a hard, effective date has also been instituted on this initiative," said Mitchell-Veinotte.
"The Legion has been advocating to have veterans disability pensions excluded from that formula for nearly a decade in this province."
People who receive one of these two benefits, but don't live in public housing, may also qualify if they are receiving a rent supplement from the province, which is money paid to landlords or cooperative/non-profit housing projects based on how much someone can afford. The province may recalculate their income, resulting in a greater supplement amount.
As of September, Nova Scotia was providing over 4,000 rent supplements to Nova Scotians across the province; the average rent supplement is $327 per month.
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