WINNIPEG -- The provincial and federal governments announced a new program to help vulnerable Manitobans afford safe and stable housing.

Ahmed Hussen, federal minister of families, children and social development, and Heather Stefanson, Manitoba’s minister of families, made the announcement on Thursday in a news release, noting the governments will invest more than $17.5 million in housing benefits over the next two years and $154.6 million over the next eight years.

“Our government is committed to ensuring that every Canadian has a safe and affordable place to call home. Long-term, predictable funding for housing has been needed for more than a decade,” Hussen said.

“With today’s announcement, we are taking a significant step toward our goal of building strong communities across Manitoba where vulnerable Canadians can prosper and thrive, now and for the future.”

The program, called the Canada-Manitoba Housing Benefit, will provide housing affordability assistance to about 3,300 Manitobans over the next two years, with the following three groups eligible for the benefit:

  • Young adults transitioning out of or who have recently aged out of the child welfare system;
  • People who are, or who are at risk of becoming, homeless; and
  • People dealing with mental health or addiction issues and are living in designated supportive housing buildings.

The governments added that young adults who have aged out of the child welfare system over the last 12 months are eligible for benefit, including those who receive Employment and Income Assistance or non-EIA Rent Assist. In this situation, the Canada-Manitoba Housing Benefit will fill the gap between their current supports and their rent, up to a maximum of $250 a month.

It is expected that 630 young adults will be eligible for the benefit in 2020-21, which will double to 1,260 in the second year.

The governments added Manitoba Child and Family Services or community-based agencies can refer young adults for the benefit, which will be put in place in the coming months.

“Housing is often barriered for young people. This benefit will remove barriers and help youth improve their housing situation,” said Kelly Holmes, executive director of Resource Assistance for Youth.

“This is sorely needed by young people coming out of the child welfare system who typically can’t afford safe and adequate housing.”

The Manitoba government is partnering with End Homelessness Winnipeg to provide a rent supplement, expected to launch in 2021-22, to those experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of becoming homeless. 

In this case, the Canada-Manitoba Housing Benefit will bridge the gap between rent assist and a person’s actual rent, up to a maximum of $250 per month.

In order to be eligible, people must be connected to a community housing support program, with about 370 individuals expected to be eligible.

“This benefit will help ensure that hundreds of Manitobans experiencing homelessness are able to secure safe and affordable housing,” said Lucille Bruce, president and CEO, End Homelessness Winnipeg. 

“Thank you to the governments of Manitoba and Canada for investing in this ground-breaking new benefit, and for entering into a lasting partnership with End Homelessness Winnipeg.”

The benefit for those experiencing mental health and addiction issues is also expected to launch in the next fiscal year when new supportive recovery housing projects, which are being built in the province, begin to accept clients. The province will be delivering this benefit, which is expected to support about 135 individuals in its first year.

“Our government is committed to providing housing to vulnerable Manitobans throughout our province,” Stefanson said. 

“Over the next two years, the Canada-Manitoba Housing Benefit will provide meaningful, monthly support so that more Manitobans have a safe place to call home.”

The government noted that between 2021-22 and 2027-28, the Canada-Manitoba Housing Benefit will meet the housing needs of about 17,600 residents. 

The programs and funding details for future years will be developed as part of the province’s three-year housing action plans.