Alberta Success Story: RESPs, Social Housing & Assets Limits

It was back in March of 2014 when we realized that families were having to make a tough choice between getting into social housing or keeping their family RESP account open. A Momentum staff member was doing a routine follow-up call with a participant named Crystal* who told Momentum that her Calgary Housing Company (CHC) caseworker said that she’d have to liquidate her family RESP if she wanted to be eligible for subsidized housing. This was a shock to the Momentum staff and after some research it was confirmed that the Alberta Housing Act stated that there was a $7,000 asset limit to get into any social housing programs in Alberta, and that this asset limit included RESPs.

This news spurred Momentum’s Public Policy into action leading to many meetings and phone calls with provincial government officials, including Lori Sigurdson, Minister of Seniors and Housing. By 2015, there was a small victory when the Alberta Housing Act was changed so that only contributions made by the family would be counted toward the asset limit and any government contributions in the accounts would not be counted toward the limits. Fast forward 9 months later and the Act was changed again to completely remove RESPs & RDSPs from the asset limit. This was a huge win for all families accessing social housing across Alberta.

Now we need to work closely with social housing organizations to make sure that all staff are aware of these changes. We also need to let the families who liquidated their RESPs know that they can re-open their RESP accounts and re-apply for the Canada Learning Bond (CLB). It’s important for those families to know that they can reapply for the CLB and get back all of the government money that they returned.

Momentum would like to acknowledge all of the people who worked hard over the past two years to make this change happen. Without everyone’s effort we couldn’t have made this important change in legislation.

By Olivia Tarasewicz, Financial Literacy Facilitator

StartSmart Program, Momentum

*name changed for privacy reasons

**This post was originally posted on our blog April 14, 2016.