Renters can now apply for one-time $500 housing benefit top-up

Applications are now open for renters looking to access the one-time top-up to the Canada Housing Benefit that will see those eligible receive an additional $500.

Promised as part of an NDP-backed Liberal affordability plan, a bill became law last month that brought in both this rental boost for low-income Canadians as well as the first federal dental-care benefit.

Ahead of the application portal opening on Dec. 12, federal Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) officials briefed reporters on how the system will work for Canadians looking to apply. 

An important note for those looking to access this tax-free federal help is that applications are only being accepted until March 31, 2023.

If you are a renter looking for the additional assistance, here’s what you need to know.

WHAT IS THE HOUSING BENEFIT?

The Liberals announced the one-time $500 federal boost to the existing Canada Housing Benefit program in the fall, pledging to help those eligible cover the cost of rent as it continues to rise nationwide.

Inked into the NDP-Liberal deal, the federal government committed to see the top-up rolled out in 2022, with the potential to renew it in the years ahead “if cost of living challenges remain.”

The program is set to cost $1.2 billion, $475 million of which was included in the 2022 federal budget.

The additional funding was included in the 2022 federal budget, with the government setting aside $475 million for those eligible this year. Now, the Liberals say the proposed funding totals $1.2 billion.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE?

This is a program for low-income renters with adjusted net incomes below $35,000 for families, or $20,000 for individuals who pay at least 30 per cent of their adjusted net income on rent.

Applicants have to be paying rent for their own primary residence in Canada, and need to apply on their own behalf.

In order to receive this $500 payment to help cover rent, applicants need to confirm they:

  • Have filed their 2021 income tax and benefit return;
  • Are at least 15 years of age as of Dec. 1, 2022;
  • Are a resident in Canada for tax purposes in 2022;
  • Have their principal residence in Canada as of Dec. 1, 2022;
  • Have paid rent for their own shelter in 2022; and
  • Have paid at least 30 per cent of their 2021 adjusted net family income on rent in the 2022 calendar year.

To apply, you do not have to receive other housing benefits, such as the original Canada Housing Benefit, which is co-funded and delivered by the provinces and territories.

The federal government estimates that approximately 1.8 million Canadians, including students, will be eligible to receive this rent support.

HOW CAN RENTERS APPLY?

Similar to the approach taken with the Canada Dental Benefit, the CRA has rolled out an attestation-based application process to receive this benefit.

Prospective applicants logging on to their CRA “My Account” or using the direct online form to apply need to be ready to provide some basic information. This includes their address, who they have paid rent to, and how to contact that person.

For those without access to the online systems, the CRA has set up a dedicated line at 1-800-282-8079 with agents that are able to help callers complete applications over the phone.

If applicants have moved throughout the last year, they will also be asked to specify how many months they have spent at certain residences.

The CRA is highly recommending signing up for direct deposit as the fastest and easiest way to receive this funding, noting that the estimated wait time for payments is five business days if signed up for direct deposit, whereas it could take 10 business days to receive a cheque by mail.

Applicants are being asked to keep any relevant documentation to back up their application in case the CRA comes calling in the next six years to validate their eligibility. This includes tax slips, rental property receipts, and landlord contact information. Applicants found to be ineligible will be required to repay the benefit.

The government has vowed that those who receive this help will not see a reduction in other federal income-tested benefits they may be receiving, such as the Canada Child Benefit and GST tax credit. 

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