Budget includes good news for Heart River Housing

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Heart River Housing is pleased with increased provincial funding for social housing in the 2024 budget announced Feb. 29.

The government increased deficit funding for seniors’ self-contained apartment and social housing units, Heart River CAO Lindsay Pratt says.

Increased funding is much-needed to pay for higher utility costs, repairs and maintenance, he says.

“Heart River Housing has struggled to find enough funds to properly repair units and this extra funding will help us get vacant units repaired and available to new tenants sooner.”

Heart River operates seniors’ lodges and social-assistance housing in the region that serves 11 municipalities that include High Prairie, Big Lakes County, Falher, McLennan, Girouxville, Donnelly, the M.D. of Smoky River based in Falher, the M.D. of Greenview, Valleyview, Northern Sunrise County and Fox Creek.

Funding to support people renting units in the general market has also increased.

Pratt says the increased funding for seniors’ self-contained apartment and social housing units is long-overdue.

“We have not had an increase from the province in four years,” Pratt says.

“This has made it very difficult to properly manage our subsidized housing within the region.”

It has caused Heart River to juggle its books and set priorities.

“In those four years, we have seen a huge jump in the cost to operate and maintain those programs,” Pratt says.

Social housing and self-contained units are owned by the provincial government. Tenants pay 30 per cent of their income to Heart River for rent, which includes utilities, he says.

“We have had to take funding from maintenance to cover the higher cost of utilities, leaving us with vacant units waiting to be repaired,” Pratt says.

“Our costs have increased drastically.”

The provincial budget also has more good news for Heart River and for people who face a tough time paying rent for housing not included in a social housing program.

“Funding in the rent assistance program has also increased, which helps us subsidize more families, adults attending school, employed part time or full time and or receiving social and income assistance,” Pratt says.

“We also subsidize people on lower-paying jobs.”

Heart River has options for people struggling to pay their rent, he adds.

“If your household income is less than $62,000 annually, you may qualify for help,” Pratt says.

He notes many renters have tighter budgets as costs rise.

“With the increase in market rent because of inflation, many people are struggling to make ends meet,” Pratt says.

“This is a perfect subsidy program that allows people to stay in their rental units they have to get funding from us to help them pay their rent.”

For more information, phone the Heart River office in High Prairie at (780) 523-5282.

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