Furstenau calls on Eby to lift persons with disabilities out of poverty

November 23, 2022

VICTORIA B.C. – Today, B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Fursteanu called on Premier Eby to raise the disability allowance to a liveable rate and to establish a clear and transparent strategy for non-market housing.

“This is really about protecting the dignity and human rights of some of our most marginalized citizens,” Furstenau said. “The housing and affordability crises have had a disproportionate impact on persons with disabilities. By some estimates, persons with disabilities experience poverty at twice the rate of persons without disabilities.

“In order to address these needs, we are calling on Premier Eby to immediately lift persons with disabilities out of poverty by issuing disability allowances that match liveable rates. This needs to be paired with a significant expansion of non-market housing supply, so that persons with disabilities do not have to cover the soaring cost of at-market housing rates with their limited fixed incomes. A non-market housing strategy should include clear goals for the number of units created at affordable rates. All units should be built with enhanced accessibility and adaptability that allows for aging in place, and trauma-, neurodivergent-, and dementia-informed design.

“With a current monthly allowance of $1,300 from the government, persons with disabilities cannot afford to live in this province. The allowance barely covers the market cost of rent in most communities, let alone every other essential expense like food and medication. Persons with disabilities in Victoria have recently made appeals to the public to help with the search and cost of housing. A family in Ladysmith has launched a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, saying that government policies have created economic barriers to affordable housing for persons with intellectual disabilities. 

While the federal government is currently debating Bill C22, which will raise federal disability rates to meet the poverty line, federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development & Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough has asked her provincial counterparts including BC Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction Nicholas Simons to fill the gap until benefits start to arrive in more than a year. 

“Last month, I asked Minister Simons if he would raise disability rates in the meantime,” Furstenau added. “My colleague Adam Olsen asked him again yesterday. Both times, Minister Simons acknowledged the egregious gap between disability rates and the poverty line, but refused to do anything about it.

“While the government has made very modest rate increases in the recent past, those increases do not compare to the chasm between what persons with disabilities receive from the government and what they need to realistically meet their housing needs and other expenses.”

“It is also important to note that while many point to the poverty line as the minimum standard for disability rates, it is itself problematic in that it does not take into account additional expenses required by persons with disabilities, nor does it take into account the staggering cost of living in BC compared to other regions in Canada,” B.C. Green MLA Adam Olsen said.

According to a new study, the Market Basket Measure (or poverty line), does not accurately reflect the extra costs incurred by persons with disabilities to compensate for the inaccessibility of our society. For example, healthcare provides insufficient coverage for many medical needs, including equipment and medication. Over-the-counter medications are not covered at all.

“Last fall, I asked then-housing minister David Eby if he believed that housing was a human right,” Olsen added. “He agreed that it is. In my mind that means he should have immediately lifted persons with disabilities out of the degrading, government-induced poverty they live in. Housing minister Eby did not do that. So the question remains, will Premier Eby be any different?”

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