Thousands of low-income Manitobans will have less money in their pockets each month following an upcoming funding cut to Manitoba Housing, a spokesperson for the provincial government confirmed today.

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Thousands of low-income Manitobans will have less money in their pockets each month following an upcoming funding cut to Manitoba Housing, a spokesperson for the provincial government confirmed today.

It is estimated more than 15,000 Manitobans will be affected by the change, although the exact number remains unclear at this time.

"People living in Manitoba Housing are struggling," said Josh Brandon, chair of Make Poverty History Manitoba.

"When you’re living on the margin, any reduction in benefits means you’re taking money out of your food budget. It means you’re going to have to make some tough choices. It means deciding which meal you’re going to skip, or what bill you’ll choose to pay."

The provincial government confirmed details of the upcoming change, but declined to comment further. Tenants affected will be informed this week.

Tenants in subsidized housing will soon be paying 28 per cent of their household income to rent. That figure was previously at 25 per cent for individuals in studio apartments and 27 per cent for those in larger units.

"People renting studio units, seniors and single people under 55, will see the largest increase," according to a document the provincial government has been distributing to landlords.

What that means is most people will be seeing anywhere from a $30 to $100 decrease in benefits each month, according to Brandon.

"For many of us, talking about a $50 or $100 reduction in funds is not as significant, but when you’re living on the margins, it’s different. When Brian Pallister was elected he said helping those living in poverty would be a priority for his government, but I don’t see that reflected in a decision like the one announced today," Brandon said.

The change will go into effect on July 1 for new tenants and November 1 for renewals. Individuals on Employment and Income Assistance will not be affected.

The announcement comes on the heels of the provincial government’s decision to cut funding for the Rent Assist program.

"This change will ensure the contribution rate for Manitoba Housing tenants is consistent with those who receive Rent Assist," said a provincial government spokesperson.

Given increases in cost of living, most people will be facing much more than a one per cent increase in out of pocket expenses once the change is implemented, said Kirsten Bernas of the Right to Housing Coalition.

"This is very discouraging. We do not fix our deficit by going to our most vulnerable citizens and putting that burden on them. There are other options we could be taking. You don’t balance the budget on the backs of the poor," she said.

The Right to Housing Coalition has been calling on the provincial government to reveal its poverty reduction strategy, which was expected to be released at the end of May., Bernas said.

It is not clear how much the province expects to save from the change.

"We haven’t seen any new initiatives from this government that we would expect to have a positive impact on low-income Manitobans," said Bernas.

"It’s not just these recent actions increasing costs for low-income people and choosing not to increase the minimum wage, it’s also what’s not happening: no commitments to building new affordable housing and no movement on their poverty reduction plan. We seem to be going backwards right now."

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.