MLA Report

By Carole James

It’s been a busy spring at my Victoria Beacon Hill Community Office. In partnership with James Bay New Horizons, we’ve held three meetings on renovictions – a tactic used by some landlords to evict renters under the pretense of renovating so that they can increase the rent.

The first meeting, January 6, was with Together Against Poverty Society (TAPS), and focused on tenant rights. The next two, January 21 and March 17, included Opposition Housing Spokesperson David Eby. At both sessions, we heard a variety of concerns.

People are worried that rents are going up much faster than incomes and the number of rental units in the city is dwindling. It’s obvious from the sessions that affordability is a growing problem across all income levels. The provincial and federal governments simply aren’t building and making available enough affordable housing.

I was pleased for a second year to hold a budget forum at the Cook Street Village Activity Centre on March 29, co-hosted with Victoria Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming. The audience heard from economist Dr. Rob Gillezeau, social policy expert Dr. Michael Prince, and Kelly Newhook, the executive director of TAPS. The panelists examined the provincial budget and focused in on regressive and outdated MSP premiums, clawback of bus passes for persons with disabilities, and lack of adequate education funding. Great questions and discussion on what priorities matter to the people in our community.

In March our office was contacted by “John”, a senior who heard he might be eligible for MSP premium assistance. Despite living on a limited pension, John had been diligently paying his premiums for years. My staff asked him to bring in his tax records for the past six years and learned that he had been eligible for a 100 percent reduction. We were able to get him a $4,500 refund.

If your family’s net income is less than $30,000 per year, or you’re over 65 and your family’s net income is less than $33,000 per year, you may be eligible for a reduction of your MSP premiums. If you’ve paid your premiums and you think you were eligible for a reduction in past years, our office may be able to assist you getting a refund. Please contact my staff.

In January our office was contacted by “Jennifer” who lives in BC Housing with her special needs grandson. Jennifer needed a transfer to a top-floor unit, as her grandson found it difficult to sleep with noisy upstairs neighbours, and it was exacerbating his learning and behavior difficulties.

Jennifer was told that she wasn’t eligible for a transfer, so our office wrote to BC Housing asking them to reconsider based on notes from the grandson’s doctor and specialists. Jennifer contacted us a few weeks later to say that the transfer had been approved and they would be moving as soon as an appropriate unit became available.

On March 30th we held another ID Clinic at Our Place, helping 70 individuals and families to replace their identification. Funding to pay for birth certificates was generously provided by the Downtown Service Providers. There is currently no government support to help people who cannot afford to replace their ID, and this is a major barrier for people to find work, housing, and get access to the services and supports they desperately need. Some individuals we assisted have been without any ID for years.

If you or your family is having an issue with a provincial government program, or an issue under provincial jurisdiction, my Community Office may be able to help. My staff is happy to provide information, advice and direct assistance where appropriate.

1084 Fort Street

Victoria, BC V8V 3K4

Phone: 250 952 4211