Op/Ed: B.C. seniors deserve safe, affordable place to live with reliable services
Every senior in British Columbia deserves the peace of mind that comes with having safe and affordable housing – yet too many can’t find the secure, accessible, affordable homes they need.
Our government is working with community partners to increase the supply of housing and make sure more seniors have good homes they can afford.
In Nanaimo this week, I was proud to announce over 150 new affordable rental homes that will give seniors relief from rising housing costs. It’s part of our plan to make life better for seniors and deliver affordable housing and the services they need in their communities, so they can stay close to friends and family.
Budget 2018 launched the largest investment in housing affordability in B.C. history – more than $7 billion over 10 years to create 114,000 homes for people. Seniors on fixed incomes will benefit from investments in affordable housing across the board. As part of this plan, our government will directly fund 37,000 new affordable rental units, leverage partnerships to build even more affordable homes, boost rental assistance for seniors and working families, build over 2,500 supportive housing units for people struggling with homelessness, retrofit and upgrade existing affordable housing, and more.
This includes $58 million over three years to expand eligibility and increase the average benefits of the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) program, which provides rent supplements in the private market to low-income seniors. As a result of these changes, over 17,000 existing low-income seniors will see their SAFER benefits increase, and 700 new senior households will become eligible. The average payment for SAFER recipients will go up by approximately $930 a year, beginning Sept. 1, 2018.
We’re also working to deliver better, faster, fair access to health care for everyone in B.C., including seniors who have increasing health care needs as they age. Seniors deserve respect and quality care. That’s why we’re working to expand the scope of services seniors need to live in dignity – at home, in their communities, and in long-term care homes.
To get patients better and faster access to surgeries, we’ve launched a new hip and knee replacement program to increase the number of surgeries performed, reduce wait times, and improve continuity of care for patients. Our government has also launched a new primary care strategy with a focus on team-based care to put patients back at the centre of health-care delivery.
To make sure people an afford the prescription medicines they need – regardless of income – we have eliminated PharmaCare deductibles for people with incomes below $30,000 and reduced deductibles for people with incomes below $45,000. We cut MSP premiums by 50% as of January 2018, and will eliminate them completely by 2020, saving families up to $1,800 per year and individuals $900 per year. We also froze and rolled-back ferry fares and brought back the 100% seniors’ weekday passenger fare discount.
This is only the beginning. More support for seniors is coming in the weeks and months ahead. We’re going to keep working hard to making life better for everyone in B.C.
Premier of British Columbia John Horgan, has been an MLA since 2005, leader of the BC New Democratic Party since 2014 and Premier since 2017.