GNWT extends rent supplement program for residents in private housing

NWT Housing Minister Paulie Chinna. (File photo/CKLB).

Residents renting in the private market that are struggling to make ends meet may be eligible for the Transitional Rent Supplement Program. 

Housing Minister Paulie Chinna announced the NWT Housing Corporation has extended the program to the end of August.

The program was supposed to end on March 31, but Chinna said the housing corporation decided to extend to help tenants pay their rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chinna said the program has been amended to make it more accessible.

Under the redesign, residents no longer have to take a financial counselling course or be arrears-free. There is also now a minimum payment of $100; the $500 maximum payment has not changed.

To be eligible, tenants need to be paying more than 30 per cent of their household income on “shelter costs”.

CKLB asked Chinna if $500 was high enough to reduce those costs to less than 30 per cent for tenants.

“I’m open to looking at it case-by-case,” she said. “I want to make sure it’s not going to discourage any of the applicants … because I understand the cost of living is quite different throughout the territories.”

The program is limited to 150 spots, though Chinna said the housing corporation hasn’t received that many applications in the past.

At the end of March, there were 40 residents in the program.

“The program needed a lot of enhancement, it needed a lot of advertisement because public housing is not the only solution for the Northwest Territories,” said Chinna. “We do have a limited amount of public housing units on the ground.”

She also pointed to the lengthy waitlist for public housing throughout the NWT and said people on it are eligible for the Transitional Rent Supplement Program.

Existing clients

The housing corporation says it’s informing residents that were enrolled in the program at the end of March that they can still access it until August.

They will also be receiving payments retroactively for April and can ask to be reassessed if their incomes have dropped due to the pandemic.

Chinna said the housing corporation is funding the extension and the cost will depend on the number of applications.

She added that her department is working with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to introduce the Canada Housing Benefit to the NWT.

The federal program should begin in September, and Chinna said clients of the Transitional Rent Supplement Program should not have any service disruptions.

Residents interested in the territorial program can find an application here or contact their local housing office.

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis has been a general news reporter with CKLB since January 2019. Originally from rural Ontario, he first came to the NWT in 2016 as an intern with Up Here magazine and fell in love with the North. In his time with CKLB, he's had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures. Otherwise, you can find him hanging around the Legislative Assembly. If you have a story or want to chat, reach out to francis@cklbradio.com