By Caitlin Wright, Income Assistance Legal Advocate
This time of the year is often a period of change and movement, with many folks seeking out new housing opportunities. Sometimes, the desire to move might be instigated by positive life events, like growing a family or finishing an education program, but oftentimes it’s traumatic changes that force someone to move (particularly for low-income folks and those surviving on social assistance through the BC Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.) At TAPS, we’re now seeing more folks than ever displaced by disasters such as floods, wildfires, and apartment and house-fires, which may leave them particularly vulnerable. At the same time, we’re seeing a high number of folks living in poverty who are being forced to move for a very specific reason: massive housing unaffordability of current rental housing and resulting evictions or renovictions.
For people receiving income, Persons with Disabilities (PWD), or hardship assistance, they may be able to use Ministry supplements for expenses associated with moving, including storage fees, hiring movers and moving vans, gas and fuel costs for transportation, security deposits, and even pet deposits. However, like with most kinds of Ministry supplements, there are eligibility criteria that first must be met to achieve a successful outcome.
What Moving Costs are Eligible for a Supplement?
Moving costs for a confirmed job, where moving is both required to start the job and the job will increase your financial independence
Moving costs for new accommodations that are significantly less costly than your current housing
Moving costs resulting from being compelled to leave your current housing (including legal and illegal evictions) or, your current housing is being demolished or condemned and no longer fit for habitation
Moving costs incurred to avoid “imminent threat to the physical safety”** of yourself or anyone else in your family unit
Transportation and living costs needed to attend a child protection hearing, family maintenance hearing, or DNA paternity testing collection site
Storage costs required to store belongings and personal effects while in the process of moving.
**What Does Imminent Threat to Physical Safety Mean?
According to the Ministry, an imminent threat to physical safety includes situations where there is a risk of becoming homeless or living in unsafe conditions (e.g.: black mold, unsafe facilities, vermin infestation, etc.), as well as threats to physical safety and risk of domestic or family violence. Exposure to active drug use or any risk to the safety of minors may also constitute an imminent threat to physical safety.
Can a Moving Supplement Help Me Move Anywhere?
Moving supplements for costs associated with attending child protection hearings, family maintenance hearings, or to attend a DNA testing site are only eligible within BC.
The Ministry may issue a supplement to assist with moving costs for moves outside of BC, if:
you can prove moving outside the province will significantly improve your living conditions, and will result in a move to a permanent, and supportive living environment that is not available to you in BC, or
you have confirmed new employment that would increase your financial resources and independence, and are required to move to begin your job.
Finally, the Ministry may provide a supplement to help move outside of Canada, in very narrow circumstances, and require a significant volume of specific documentation to verify this request.
What Kind of Information or Documents Will I Need to Provide?
Regardless of the reason for moving, it is essential you obtain prior approval from the Ministry, before paying for any moving costs yourself – the Ministry will only provide financial reimbursement for moving expenses that have already been paid for in exceptional circumstances (for example, in situations where you may be fleeing an abusive or unsafe living environment or facing imminent risk of homelessness.)
You will also need to prove that you have no other financial supports available to help cover your moving costs. The Ministry will review your information to see if you have access to funds through your bank accounts, financial assets, or investments, lines of credit, or potential employment earnings.
Finally, you will need to ensure that the moving expenses you are asking to be covered through a moving supplement are the least costly option. This is typically established by providing a few different financial quotes per expense, and submitting them all as part of your request to the Ministry. Most moving, storage, and transportation companies will provide free estimates over the phone or online. You will want to make sure you cover a range of cost estimates, so that the least costly option is clear and obvious. Since you may have to contact a few different moving and storage companies, or arrange for transportation (e.g. BC Ferries), it's a good idea to begin contacting companies as soon as you know the dates of your move in order to pre-book or place a hold on specific dates, vans, or moving services.