08/30/2013 02:59 EDT | Updated 10/30/2013 05:12 EDT

Manitoba government eyes deal on tenant insurance for public housing

WINNIPEG - The Manitoba government is working on a deal to make it easier for people in public housing to get tenant insurance.

The province is putting the finishing touches on an agreement with Ontario-based SoHo Insurance to offer affordable coverage for renters in Manitoba Housing's 14,000 units.

Darrell Jones, CEO of Manitoba Housing, says some people have had a hard time getting insurance companies to cover them.

The government put out a call in March for an insurance company that would not deny coverage based on income or location.

Jones says SoHo, which has offered similar insurance in Ontario for years, responded.

The government will not subsidize the insurance, but will make tenants aware that the insurance is available for as little as $155 a year.

"Whenever you have a large portfolio (of housing), you're going to have incidents occur, where damages or fires occur, and people were left with fairly significant losses sometimes," Jones said Friday.

The insurance may also be extended to another 22,000 units run by non-profit groups and co-operatives.

It's a voluntary program, so tenants will not have to buy the insurance as a condition of their leases.

SoHo offers two options for public housing tenants in Ontario. For $155 a year, tenants are covered for up to $10,000 in personal possessions, $500,000 in legal liabilities, and $2,000 for living expenses if they are forced out of their homes.

The second package offers twice the amount of coverage for $207 a year.