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GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS - Social services and programs - Entitlement - Disabled persons - Services and programs - Housing - Subsidized housing - Rent subsidies

Thursday, February 23, 2017 @ 10:52 AM  

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Appeal by SA from a judgment in favour of the Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation (MVHC). The appellant was a person with disabilities. MVHC was a non-profit public housing body that provided subsidized rental units to eligible tenants. MVHC required prospective tenants to provide evidence of their income and assets to determine eligibility. An asset ceiling policy of $25,000 existed to ensure those with the greatest need benefited from rental assistance. The appellant lived at the complex from 1992 onward pursuant to annual tenancy agreements with MVHC, each of which required her to verify her assets and income. In 2012, litigation involving the estate of the appellant's late father resulted in the appellant becoming a beneficiary under a discretionary trust. The order creating the trust did not disclose the contents of the trust or its value. The appellant refused to disclose the information to MVHC beyond stating she had not received any trust payments to date. MVHC took the position the appellant was required to disclose any assets in which she had a beneficial interest, including the discretionary trust, in order to determine her eligibility for additional rent assistance. The appellant filed a petition seeking a declaration the discretionary trust was not an asset for the purpose of her tenancy agreement with MVHC with related relief. MVHC sought an order requiring disclosure of the value of the trust with supporting documentation. The chambers judge decided in favour of MVHC. SA appealed.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The fundamental issue was whether MVHC was able to require the appellant to provide additional details of the trust of which she was a beneficiary. MVHC ran two separate but related programs. It provided subsidized rental units to individuals who met eligibility criteria related to income and health, and it provided rental assistance to eligible applicants required to provide supporting materials requested by MVHC. To the extent the chambers judge approached the issues through the lens of the tenancy agreement, that approach was erroneous. The critical document to determining eligibility for rental assistance was the additional rental assistance application. The trust was an asset of the appellant regardless of the fact that her interest therein was not vested. Under the provisions of the assistance application, MVHC was entitled to the further information it requested regarding the trust to determine the appellant's eligibility.

S.A. v. Metro Vancouver Housing Corp., [2017] B.C.J. No. 70, British Columbia Court of Appeal, D.M. Smith, E.A. Bennett and R. Goepel JJ.A., January 6, 2017. Digest No. 3639-007