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Does social assistance help?

The amount provided on social assistance to pay for housing costs has a “maximum limit“ which has not changed since 1995.  For example, a family of four on social assistance receives a maximum of $602 for their housing. [17]  If their rent is lower than the maximum, the shelter portion of their cheque is reduced to the actual rent.  If their rent is higher than the maximum, they must pay the difference from their food money [18].

There is just not enough money!

  • 1.6 million households that rent their housing have an annual income of less than $14,000.  This means that one in three tenant households in Canada can not afford to pay more than $360/month in rent.[19]

  • A single mother with one child on social assistance receives a maximum monthly shelter allowance of $511.  The difference between shelter costs and the assistance received, must be taken from the family’s other resources.  The maximum monthly social assistance this family could receive in $853. When a family who receives social assistance lives in subsidized housing, their shelter allowance is reduced.

  • A single-parent household with two children, earning $10/hr working 40 hrs/week for 52 weeks/year, can make $20800/year.  This family can afford $520 a month for rent.[1] 


1. Child and Youth Health Network for Eastern Ontario (2003). Adequate and Affordable Housing: A Child Health Issue.

17. Region of Ottawa Carleton. Social Assistance Rate Table, October 1, 1999.

18. Ross DP, Roberts P. Income and child Well-being: A New Perspective on the Poverty Debate, Canadian Council on Social Development, 1999.

19. National Housing and Homelessness Network. (November 21, 2002). Few new homes, few new provincial dollars: One year after Affordable Housing Framework Agreement, low income Canadians still looking for affordable housing. Available:

All references for this section