Castlegar and District Community Services Society (CDCSS) & BC Rent Bank
open new rent bank in the Kootenays
Providing emergency relief and housing stability support for renters extends for one year
Ktunaxa, Okanagan Syilx, Sinixt and Secwépemc Territories: Castlegar and District Community Services Society (CDCSS) – with support from BC Rent Bank and the Province, as well as with funding from SPARC BC – has opened a new rent bank in the Kootenay region.
The Kootenay Rent Bank is now providing housing stability services and supports to renters in low-to-moderate income households in over 100 cities, towns and villages throughout the three regional districts of Central Kootenay, East Kootenay, and Kootenay Boundary. Services will be facilitated in the communities of Castlegar, Cranbrook, Creston, Fernie, Grand Forks, Kimberly, Nelson, Rossland, Sparwood, and Trail, among many others.
The Kootenay Rent Bank is operated by CDCSS, a non-profit organization that has been providing support services for children, youth, families, women, seniors and for people experiencing, or at risk of homeless for more than 40 years. Currently, CDCSS runs over 20 programs, including counselling for children, short-term housing for adults and children who have experienced domestic violence, police-based victim services, non-medical home support for seniors living independently, and volunteer drivers for seniors, among others.
BC Rent Bank, a project funded by the provincial government, is providing initial funding to support operating costs and loan values during Kootenay Rent Bank’s first year of operations. This seed funding provides the space and time that CDCSS needs to effectively operate a rent bank while it secures longer-term investment partners – a necessary requirement for the pilot program to be able to continue beyond its first year.
As one part of a broader housing-support system, rent banks provide housing stability and prevent homelessness for low-to-moderate income renters, when they encounter episodes or emergencies that compromise their financial stability, making them unable to pay rent or essential utilities. The purpose of a rent bank is to help people hold on to their housing when times get tough by providing small, interest-free loans and by helping people navigate their way out of the financial challenges that are putting their housing at risk.
Additionally, rent banks provide various support services that aim to stabilize a person’s housing, including financial assistance; financial literacy; navigating, understanding and accessing benefits and other community supports; mediation between landlords and tenants; and advocacy for tenant rights.
While BC Rent Bank provides financial support to existing rent banks in B.C. to assist with operating costs, other investors are needed to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of rent banks. These investors include landlords and housing management companies, various levels of government, foundations with an interest in housing stability, business community, financial institutions, and other community organizations and individuals.
Melissa Giles, Project Lead, BC Rent Bank: “By providing seed funding, we’re working with Castlegar and District Community Services Society to – together – open the 18th rent bank in British Columbia, putting us closer to laying the foundation for a province-wide rent bank system that renters can count on over the long-term.”
Kristein Johnson, Executive Director, Castlegar and District Community Services Society: “CDCSS looks forward to expanding the services that we provide to the Kootenay Region. By incorporating a rent bank and its wraparound support services, we will be able to reach a significant number of people and play a role in their housing stability. Our office and all of our services are dedicated to helping people who are in difficult places in their lives, and we recognize that healing begins in a safe and stable home.”
Lorraine Copas, Executive Director, SPARC BC: “SPARC BC is also excited to be a partner in this initiative through funding available through the provincial Homelessness Community Action Grant program. Not only will this funding help to track and measure on the impact of these types of investments, but it is our hope that this funding can also help to increase our understanding and build capacity at the local level about ways to help to address issues of poverty and homelessness.”
Katrine Conroy, MLA for Kootenay West: “This is excellent news for people living in the Kootenays. Now, people who need help paying rent will be able to access the Kootenay Rent Bank and avoid eviction or potentially becoming homeless. Our government is proud to support this program expanding to help people in our region.”
About Castlegar and District Community Services Society
We improve the quality of people’s lives by providing assistance, counselling and support, and by working for social change in our communities. For more information, visit: http://cdcss.ca/
About SPARC BC
The Social Planning and Research Council of B.C. (SPARC BC) is an independent, non-partisan, registered charity that works with BC communities in building a just and healthy society for all. For more information, visit https://www.sparc.bc.ca.
About the Provincial Homelessness Community Action Grant Initiative
The Homelessness Community Action Grant program through SPARC BC was launched in June 2019 to allow communities and non-profits, who are at the frontline of the homelessness crisis, to increase their capacity to respond to homelessness and improve outcomes. The funding provided through the Homelessness Community Action Grant program can be used for activities with geographic focus, such as planning or collaboration in a local community, or a demographic focus, such as initiatives that respond to the needs of specific vulnerable and at-risk populations. https://www.sparc.bc.ca/partnerships/provincial-homelessness-grants/
About BC Rent Bank
BC Rent Bank is a project of VanCity Community Foundation and funded by the Province of BC. The mandate of the BC Rent Bank is to support the funding of existing rent banks; to provide support and seed funding for the establishment of new rent banks in B.C.; and, to create the infrastructure necessary to support a potential future province-wide rent bank system or service. For more information or to find your local rent bank, visit http://bcrentbank.ca.