The National Council of Welfare recently released a report which stated that welfare rules are forcing people into destitution. The report explains: “It is tougher to get welfare in Canada today than during the economic downturn of the early 1990s because Ontario and most other provinces force people to drain their bank accounts and spend all of their savings before they qualify for help.” (Toronto Star, 14/12/10)
Ontario welfare rates are as follows: a single person receives $349 for rent, and $211 for basic needs, a total of $560 per month. The average rent for bachelor and one bedroom apartments in Toronto are $758 and $926. Single people don’t get enough to rent bachelors or one bedroom units in Toronto and are forced to live in rooms or become homeless. Single parents with two kids under 12 receive $595 for rent and $571 for basic needs, a total of $1166 per month. The average rent for a two bedroom apartment in Toronto is $1096, which leaves families with $70 after paying rent. A family with two adults and two kids under 12 receives $647 for rent and $619 for basic needs, a total of $1,266. The average rent for three or more bedroom apartments is $1290. Clearly these rates are nowhere near enough to pay housing costs, food, clothing, transportation and other essential needs. Most families receive Child Tax Benefits but this is clawed back from welfare payments.
The reality of these facts is that once an individual or family is receiving welfare, they have very few (if any) assets and little or no savings. So if they fall behind even one month in paying their rent, it can be disastrous. There is essentially no money left over to pay arrears and keep up with the rent at the same time. An example is a single parent with two children who lost her job six months ago. She is confident she will work again eventually, but for now she is finding it impossible to pay rent and cover all of her costs. She is facing eviction for one month rent. She wants to make a payment plan with the Landlord but she can only afford an extra $50 per month on top of her rent and even that is a stretch for her. The Landlord won’t accept less than $100 per month towards arrears. She was unable to pay that so she now faces a hearing at the Landlord and Tenant Board in January. “I never in a million years expected this to happen to me.” She says. “I am so scared and I just don’t know what to do.”