02/18/2016 17:22 EST | Updated 02/18/2017 00:12 EST

Seniors can't keep up with rising rents says B.C. advocate

B.C.'s senior advocate says the story of a North Vancouver senior staying in a homeless shelter sheds light on the difficulty many seniors have paying rents that increase every year.

Fran Flann, 82, slept in a shelter for nearly a week after she was discharged from the hospital but found workers had not finished treating her apartment for bedbugs. She moved into a hotel Wednesday afternoon thanks to a Good Samaritan, but says she is still concerned about the rising cost of living in the Lower Mainland.

Flann says her rent rose from about $400 in the 1990s to $946 per month this year.

B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie says Flann's situation illustrates the difficulty some seniors have paying rent on a fixed income.

"For those seniors, this is a very acute problem and it's only going to continue to compound because we allow rent increases beyond the rate of inflation."

About 20 per cent of seniors are renters, according to Mackenzie.

Rent control and rent aid not in sync

B.C.'s rental controls stipulate rent must not go up by more than two per cent plus inflation every year. Publicly-funded pensions also increase every year, but only at the rate of inflation.

That extra two per cent worth of rent accumulates over time and some seniors find themselves unable to pay rent in an apartment they've lived in for years, said Mackenzie.

People can apply for Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER), a government program that provides financial relief for seniors, but only those whose rent falls under a certain amount can qualify for aid.

Currently, that cap is $756 per month. Mackenzie says the cap isn't high enough, given how expensive rent is in the Lower Mainland.

"What we found is that over a 10 year period, average rents have increased by 36 per cent, but the cap for SAFER has only increased by nine per cent."

Mackenzie says her office is asking the government to raise the cap so that more seniors can access rent aid.