Celebrating the Successful Roll-Out of the Rental Assistance Calculator

15 April 2024

The Rental Assistance Program (FCHI-2) has been a lifesaver for co-op households of low and modest income. As the expiry of the legacy co-op housing programs came closer, about one third of co-op members faced the loss of a housing subsidy geared to their income—which would mean the loss of the co-op homes they could no longer afford.

Developed under the National Housing Strategy, the Rental Assistance Program bridges the income gap by funding the difference between the full market charge for a housing unit and the geared-to-income charge paid by assisted members. The Rental Assistance Program ensures that no qualified household pays more than 30 per cent of income for their co-op home. 

The program is overseen by the Agency on CMHC’s behalf and administered by co-op managers themselves. The Agency decided that we wanted to make their job as easy as such important work can be. So we embarked on a journey to create a unique tool: the Rental Assistance Online Calculator. After several years in development, the Calculator has been rolled out across the spectrum of clients in the Rental Assistance Program.

What can the Online Calculator do for your co-op? A lot! Once a manager has filled in their co-op’s basic information, they can calculate assisted housing charges, adjusted for missing or extra services, and print out a report that tells the member what they will pay each month for the next year. Using the Calculator, a manager can make mid-year changes if a household ‘s income goes up or down, or someone moves in or out.   

Reconciling assistance calculations when preparing for the audit has always been a big job. With the Calculator, the trick is to enter information changes promptly during the year and generate a test report monthly or quarterly to check the assisted charges against the co-op books. If the information in the Calculator is kept current, the year-end reconciliation (also called a claim) is quick and simple. And you can file it online.

It’s been a long, strange trip, with twists, turns and false starts along the way. We appreciate the patience of our clients and frontline staff, who gave us the time and feedback we needed to build a good tool and get it right. 

As more and more co-ops start to use the calculator, we’re happy to be receiving positive feedback from co-ops.

“It took quite some time, practice and many errors, but now it’s way easier,” said one member from Coopérative d'habitation Demers. 

They said they love not having to input co-op information every time she does a calculation, and that the help desk has been fantastic at answering all her questions and requests.

We’re now approaching the last stage of our journey. The Agency is here to help co-op managers and administrators with webinars, a training video and the advice of the rental assistance officers as they learn to use the new tool and make it a core part of their working lives. 

If you have questions about the Online Calculator or the program, please reach out to your co-op’s rental assistance officer. 

Tip of the Month

Capital Reserve Balance

61% of Agency clients hold a capital reserve balance of at least $6,000 per unit. By almost doubling the amount from 2007, co-ops are nearly twice as ready to meet their future needs.