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LETTER: Langley senior too poor to qualify for ‘affordable’ housing

Letter writer would like seniors poverty to be a federal election issue

Dear Editor,

My personal thoughts on affordable housing.

Who decides what affordable housing is exactly, and who qualifies?

Here in B.C. it’s decided by BC Housing. It operates the housing registry.

This registry accepts applications for subsidized housing and matches them with landlords offering subsidized accommodation.

B.C. seniors 60+ are also eligible for a monthly cash payment via S.A.F.E.R. (Shelter Aide For Elderly Seniors) which is a program that provides an income supplement for seniors in the low to moderate income bracket, allowing them assistance to meet rental payments on a monthly basis.

The amount you receive is dependant on your monthly rent expenditure and your income.

When I hear that a building offers affordable housing, I think that it is offering housing to lower income people, families and seniors.

I learned that lower income is much different from living in poverty.

Many seniors who are classified as low income are actually, sadly, living in poverty.

‘Affordable’ housing should provide housing to those most in need, such as myself.

I, like millions of women of my generation, gave up future accumulating income in order to stay home and raise children, putting us in the position of receiving lower pensions which is based on the income we received throughout our working life.

Raising children is equally important as providing for a family and should be taken into monetary consideration when calculating pensions for stay-at-home parents.

As we know, it isn’t, and that’s why we see seniors, who should be enjoying retirement, working shifts at McDonald’s, Walmart, and Tim Hortons just to survive on a month-to-month basis.

If not for this supplemental income, difficult choices would have to be made such as what your priorities need to be, with the amount of money you have to work with.

Do you eat a healthy diet? Do you pay for medical treatments and prescriptions? (yes most are covered but some aren’t). Or do you pay the rent?

Sometimes you have to compromise and go without healthy food or a decent place to live or because there isn’t anything else available that you can “afford” without part-time employment.

(Thankfully there are businesses that will hire seniors.)

Seniors are not looking for pity. We are looking for a decent place to call home within our budget, to pay for our prescriptions and hopefully have enough left over to eat well.

So when is affordable housing “affordable”?

Property managers have told me my monthly income does not meet the minimum required for their “affordable” units. I have also been told that “affordable” is approximately 15 per cent below market rent and that only a small number of the units in the building will be designated ‘affordable’ for most seniors, with the rest being at full market rent.

My problem is their definition of “affordable,” because when it’s used to describe housing, in my opinion, it’s the wrong word.

I now know when I read or hear “affordable housing,” I know that it’s not really affordable to everyone on a pension.

When politicians talk about providing more affordable housing, do they realize that they are leaving out so many of us seniors who are living in poverty?

There is very little time before we elect our federal MPs, and I wonder if they really know what the issues are for the impoverished people living in their riding?

I doubt they have taken the time to find out when they have only been preparing for their party’s campaign for a few weeks?

Someone needs to stand up and fight for us. Without seniors, none of you would even be here.

Deb Westdorp, Walnut Grove


• READ MORE: Canada’s long-term care system failed elders before, during and after COVID-19

• READ MORE: Federal parties and how they plan to deal with housing

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