National Directive on the Administration of Shelter Allowance to Income Assistance Clients on-Reserve
The purpose of this national directive is to provide clarification and direction on the administration of Shelter Allowance to Income Assistance clients on-reserve.
As a program of last resort, the on-reserve Income Assistance program provides Shelter Allowances as a basic needs benefit to eligible individuals and families to cover such costs as fuel, hydro, utilities, maintenance costs, and loan payments under certain conditions. The Shelter Allowance component of the basic needs benefit is not a housing program. It is meant only to help contribute to the cost of certain living expenses, as outlined above, for Income Assistance clients ordinarily resident on-reserve.
This directive affirms that Shelter Allowance benefits on-reserve are to be aligned with provincial and territorial rates and eligibility so that on-reserve residents in need receive social assistance in a manner consistent with persons living under comparable conditions in areas adjacent to reserves. This directive also provides clarification regarding the conditions under which Shelter Allowance may be paid to Income Assistance clients on-reserve.
While it is correct that provinces do not require a universal rental regime by that name, landlord-tenant boards and accompanying legislation exist to help ensure that:
- There is a fundamental tenancy/rental accommodation market;
- There is an arm's length relationship between landlord and tenant;
- Working families assist in making shelter payments, along with Income Assistance recipients;
- There are checks and balances built into the system; and
- Roles and responsibilities between landlord and tenant are specified.
This directive came into effect in September 2016 and will remain in effect until such time as it is cancelled or replaced by either a new directive or by a new national Income Assistance policy.
This directive provides further clarity on the program Terms and Conditions for the Income Assistance Program to provide income support to on-reserve residents, as well as the 1990 Interim Policy on Housing Loans and Shelter Allowance in conjunction with other applicable INAC policies and procedures for managing transfer payments, applicable provincial/territorial legislation, and any other INAC approved documentation. It will also formalize recommendations made in the 1997 draft Shelter Allowance policy.
This directive does not apply to the administration of Shelter Allowance for communities participating in the Ontario Works program in the province of Ontario.
This directive does not apply to the administration of Shelter Allowance for communities in the province of Quebec where "shelter" funding is an automatic built-in component of a client's monthly lump-sum benefit.
Application and Implementation
This directive is to be applied nationally in all First Nation communities where Shelter Allowance is paid as part of the Income Assistance Program.
First Nations will be responsible for the implementation of this directive.
Income Assistance Program: The Income Assistance Program provides funding to assist eligible individuals and families who are ordinarily resident on-reserve to help with the cost of basic needs, special needs and employment and pre-employment measures. This program is designed to increase self-reliance, to improve life skills and to promote greater attachment to the workforce. The Income Assistance Program is a needs-based program of last resort which should only be accessed when all other measures for income have been exhausted.
Income Assistance Eligibility: Income Assistance applicants must demonstrate their eligibility for funding and must meet all of the qualifying requirements of their province or territory of residence. This must include an assessment of financial need which covers their employability, family composition and age, and financial resources available to their household.
Ordinarily Resident on-Reserve: For Income Assistance, an individual who is "ordinarily resident on-reserve" means that an individual client:
- lives on-reserve and does not maintain a primary residence off-reserve; or
- lives off-reserve for the primary purpose of obtaining required medical care or social service support because there is no reasonably comparable service available on-reserve, and lived on-reserve immediately prior to receiving the medical care or social service support.
For Income Assistance, "reserve" is as defined in the Indian Act; includes the Yukon Territory; and excludes lands which have been designated for commercial purposes (for First Nations operating under the Indian Act) or leased for commercial purposes (for First Nations operating under the First Nations Land Management Act).
Basic needs: Basic needs are the component of the Income Assistance Program which provides funding to clients to assist with the cost of food, clothing and shelter (rent/mortgage and utilities) costs.
Shelter Allowance: A component of basic needs, this allowable expense is to assist with the cost of shelter (rent/mortgage and utilities) of an Income Assistance client ordinarily resident on-reserve under the conditions that have been outlined in this directive.
Provincial/Territorial Alignment: The principle that on-reserve residents who qualify for Income Assistance, receive Shelter Allowance payments to help cover the cost of rent/mortgage payments and utilities. This extends to rates and eligibility as outlined by provincial and territorial governments as well as the range of services and other allowances which are provided by provinces and territories for Income Assistance clients off-reserve.
Universal/Community wide Rental Regime: A universal or community wide rental regime lays out the rights and the responsibilities of the parties to a rental agreement, including terms and rental rates, that are consistent with the residential tenancy statutes in that province or territory. For it to be considered fully implemented, a rental regime must be applied to all band-owned homes on-reserve regardless of tenancy. The rental regime may be incorporated as part of the First Nations' housing policy through band by-laws.
A community rental regime policy must apply to all residents, including private land holders. The policy must describe the collection, terms and conditions as to which rent collections are made, and the amount of rent for the fiscal year. The collection of rent on homes that have mortgages paid and are occupied by individuals and families receiving Income Assistance must also be included in the policy. This supports the principle of fairness and transparency. Rents must be universally collected on all band-owned housing and the inventory of all houses privately owned must be identified.
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Insured Loans secured by a Ministerial Loan Guarantee (formerly known as Section 10 Loans): Income Assistance Program may assist Band Councils or First Nation members living on-reserve in accessing financing for the construction, purchase and/or renovation of single-family homes or multiple residential rental properties. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation provides loan insurance to the Approved Lender (banks, Aboriginal Capital Corporations, credit unions, etc.) to make loans on residential homes or projects located on-reserve.
On-Reserve Non-Profit Housing Program (Section 95 homes): This program assists First Nations in the construction, purchase and rehabilitation, and administration of suitable, adequate and affordable rental housing on-reserve. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation delivers the program and may provide direct loans for First Nations to construct, purchase and rehabilitate projects. These loans, for up to 100 per cent of the total eligible capital cost of a project, are insured under the National Housing Act and are guaranteed by the Minister of INAC.
Shelter Allowance – rent or mortgage payments
Amounts payable for Shelter Allowance shall be equivalent to the rates of the reference province or territory. INAC's contribution will be adjusted to reflect the provision of related federal or provincial/territorial benefits to avoid funding duplication. Shelter Allowance may be payable in the following circumstances:
- Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Section 95 program while there is an outstanding loan balance as long as:
- The house is constructed solely with government funds;
- Rent must customarily be collected for the house, whether or not it is occupied by a income assistance recipient; and,
- The amount of rent must be reasonable in terms of family needs, size, the condition of the housing, and prevailing community rental practices.
- Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Insured Loans secured by a Ministerial Loan Guarantee (formerly known as Section 10 Loans) to First Nations for social housing when there is an outstanding loan balance.
- Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Insured Loans secured by a Ministerial Loan Guarantee (formerly known as Section 10 Loans) to individuals where, for circumstances beyond the individual's control, they have become eligible for Income Assistance.
- Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program loans.
- Rents paid on privately owned homes (supported by a Certificate of Possession or Location Ticket) to an absentee landlord.
- Rents paid on First Nation owned homes (including Section 95 homes) where universal/community-wide rental regimes have been fully implemented. Rent must be collected for these homes whether or not they are occupied by Income Assistance recipients. This applies both to homes where there is an outstanding mortgage and to homes where there is no longer a mortgage in place on the property.
A client is deemed eligible to receive reimbursement for shelter/rental expenses payments based on the criteria outlined above. Shelter Allowance should be paid directly to the client where possible to not limit the housing choices of Income Assistance clients as it does not fall within the purview of the Income Assistance Program to specify what type of home an Income Assistance client may occupy. Only in exceptional circumstances where it is clear that a client does not have the ability to meet their monthly obligations should Shelter Allowance benefits be held back and paid by the band on behalf of the client.
In cases where the recipient shares accommodations with an individual who is not eligible for Income Assistance or who cannot be included for the purposes of benefit calculations, shelter benefit amounts should be prorated based on actual costs to the Income Assistance client specifically. Shelter benefits are not to be paid for an ineligible person living in the same home as an Income Assistance client at any time.
Actual costs for rent may be allowed depending on rates and eligibility in the recipient's province or territory of residence however they may not at any time exceed maximum shelter/rental rates allowable for Income Assistance clients in said province or territory.
The current rent/mortgage subsidies provided on-reserve by INAC are not intended to cover the full cost of constructing a new house nor of renovating/rehabilitating/upgrading an existing one. Under current policy the resources necessary to complete this type of work are required to be identified and obtained from other sources.
Shelter Allowance – utilities
Shelter Allowance may be allocated to eligible Income Assistance clients to contribute to the cost of utilities in accordance with provincial rates and eligibility. INAC's contribution will be adjusted to reflect the provision of related federal or provincial/territorial benefits to avoid funding duplication. Utility costs may include expenses such as water, sanitation services, land line home phone service, hydro, heating fuel (such as oil or wood), and natural gas. The responsibility to make the required monthly payments for utility bills should be that of the client and not of the Band. To that end, Shelter Allowance funds allocated for utilities should be paid to the client by the program administrator along with the clients’ regular Income Assistance payment and must not be held back by the band unless a client has demonstrated that he or she is unable to meet these monthly financial obligations without the assistance of the Income Assistance administrator for his or her community.
In cases where the recipient shares utilities with an individual who is not eligible for Income Assistance or who cannot be included for the purposes of benefit calculations, utility benefit amounts will be prorated based on actual costs to the Income Assistance client specifically. Utility benefits may not be paid for an ineligible person living in the same home as an Income Assistance client at any time.
Actual costs for utilities may be allowed depending on rates and eligibility in the recipient's province or territory of residence however they may not at any time exceed maximum shelter rates allowable for Income Assistance clients in said province or territory.
Shelter Allowance funds may not be used to make payments on loans for upgrades or modifications to a home related to the utilities as they are meant only to help cover the actual utility costs incurred by the Income Assistance client living in that home in alignment with provincial or territorial rates and eligibility. Under current policy the resources necessary to complete this type of work are required to be identified and obtained from other sources.
Reporting and Compliance
In accordance with the record keeping requirements set out in the Funding Agreement, Administrators are required to keep information that is collected from all applicants, whether or not they are eligible for services, including:
- completed applications;
- incomplete applications;
- all supporting documentation provided during the application process; and
- a copy of their current rental agreement.
Administrators must collect and keep information that supports the eligibility of the expenditures and the management of an applicant's and a client's circumstances. This information must be accessible during a program compliance review.
The types of information that are used to assess and confirm the needs and eligibility of an individual and related expenditure include:
- application form(s);
- authorization forms used to confirm the individual's information;
- documentation verifying the residency of the individual and each person in his or her family unit;
- Social Insurance Number;
- documentation verifying the identity of the individual and each person in his or her family unit;
- documentation verifying the financial need of the individual or his or her family unit;
- case plans and notes documenting the management of the individual's circumstances where appropriate;
- the Funding Recipient's general ledger and supporting accounting records;
- working papers, lists, system reports and any other information necessary to complete each INAC reporting requirement; and
- pay lists used to create monthly Income Assistance benefit payments and cheques.
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