Residents cry foul over new regulations
Foothills: Provincial government including carbon tax rebate as income for social housing
Wednesday, Nov 29, 2017 06:00 am
Residents living in subsidized housing were shocked to learn their rent could go up thanks to provincial carbon tax rebates.
Westwinds Communities issued notices to its residents this month that as of Sept. 1, Alberta carbon levy rebates are to be reported as a source of income to calculate their monthly rent.
Lauren Ingalls, Westwinds CAO, said the notice came out of a new provincial mandate.
“It’s a regulation, and we administer their housing on their behalf,” said Ingalls.
She said Westwinds was notified of the new rules on Oct. 6 and passed on the news to its residents in November. Residents are being asked to include rebate statements from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) during their annual income reviews with Westwinds.
The government does not allow other social credits, such as GST payments or child tax benefits, to be used as a source of income, she said.
Ingalls had no comment when asked whether Westwinds agrees with the new regulation.
“Our responsibility is to make sure we follow their mandate on it and adhere to the legislation of which tenants are subject to,” said Ingalls. “We’re just the messenger.”
According to Jennifer Burgess, press secretary for the ministry of seniors and housing, the new regulation was initiated by the provincial government to help organizations like Westwinds.
Though carbon levy rebates are not considered taxable income by the provincial government, and are not considered part of a tenant’s income when calculating eligibility for housing, she said they are to be used as income in calculating monthly rent.
“Carbon levy rebates are included as income for the purposes of monthly rental calculation to help offset the increased costs to housing management bodies and reduce the amount of operational deficit for the provincial and municipal governments,” said Burgess in a written statement.
Ronald Fast, a resident of Glen Mead Park in Black Diamond, said the practice is ridiculous. He pays 30 per cent of his income in rent, and now will add 30 per cent of his carbon tax rebate to that amount.
Though the carbon tax rebate only amounts to about $200 per year for him, which would mean paying about $5 more per month in rent, he said it’s the principal of the matter.
“I don’t agree with it, it doesn’t sound right to me,” said Fast. “I don’t think it’s fair, because it’s not a taxable income.”
He said many residents at Glen Mead are upset about the government’s new policy, which could have a great affect on some residents. Those at High Country Lodge, who pay 60 per cent of their income for rent, could be hurt by the new income rules, he said.
“They seem to think this is income, and we don’t think it is,” said Fast. “The result is the NDP government is clawing back some of their carbon tax, they’re taking 30 per cent of whatever we all received.”
Highwood MLA Wayne Anderson said the entire carbon tax program is ‘a disaster.’
First off, he said the NDP government made a mistake in referring to the tax as a levy, a term he said the Province used to soften the blow for Albertans.
“The reality is, when you use that nomenclature, Canada Revenue Agency now can tax a levy,” said Anderson. “You can’t tax a tax, but you can tax a levy. So, now these people are being hit – not only are they being charged a levy, now there’s GST on that, so they’re being double-hit.”
He said suggesting the minimal carbon tax rebate received is income is ludicrous.
It will have an effect on people with fixed incomes, including seniors and those struggling to make ends meet in a tough economy, he said.
“It just shows there’s no compassion whatsoever with a so-called compassionate government,” said Anderson. “The United Conservative Party, Bill 1 will be to scrap the tax. That’s what our plan is, and that’s how we’re going to face the music.”