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BC Rent Bank expands capacity to support low-income renters facing difficulty from COVID-19

April 9, 2020

Sun shining on a city scape view

Unceded territories of Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations/Vancouver B.C. – In response to a surge in renters struggling to meet their rent payments due to the financial impacts of COVID-19, the BC Rent Bank today announced the distribution of additional funds to enable the Province’s rent banks to assist more renters.

The BC Rent Bank works to support British Columbians who need help to keep their homes. It was created from consultation with existing rent banks in partnership through Vancity Community Foundation with funding provided by the Province of British Columbia. Rent banks have played a vital role over the past decade in addressing BC’s housing crisis, and its support is needed more than ever as many workers are losing their jobs and are fearful of falling into rent arrears due to a dramatic loss in income.

The BC Rent Bank’s additional funding will allow three existing rent banks to expand into Burnaby, North Okanagan and Columbia-Shuswap Regional Districts, and the Township and City of Langley. Until federal and provincial relief programs recently announced by the federal and provincial governments come into effect, rent banks across BC will continue to support residents who have immediate needs. With further coordination across 10 sites, BC Rent Bank is hoping to make provisions available to those who are affected by COVID-19 and who may not qualify for traditional loans.

Quote from Melissa Giles, BC Rent Bank’s Project Lead:
“Coronavirus and the subsequent loss of many jobs have left renters across BC in financial difficulty. It’s an incredibly stressful time and rent banks are here to support low-income renters who need help.”

“Thanks to the quick collaboration of Surrey, New Westminster, and Kamloops’ rent banks, short-term financial assistance will be accessible to more communities during this difficult period,” Melissa continued.

When COVID-19 hit, the BC Rent Bank started talking to rent banks across the province about increasing their capacity to serve more communities. In an emergency response to Burnaby’s current needs, the New Westminster’s Rent Bank (NWRB) and BC Rent Bank began with $20,000 of additional support for renters across Burnaby.

To date, the NWRB has provided financial support to 80 families facing financial difficulty with medical emergencies, layoffs, and other burdens with rent assistance. “We’re here to help those with mid-to-low-income through unexpected financial crises, and we are so grateful to have these partnerships working quickly and efficiently to help as many people as we can,” said Bruce Foster, NWRB’s Case Manager.

About the BC Rent Bank
In December 2018, the Provincial Rental Housing Task Force, led by the premier’s advisor on residential tenancy, MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, along with MLA’s Adam Olsen and Ronna-Rae Leonard, released 23 recommendations to the premier, including recommendation #4, provincial funding for rent banks.

BC Rent Bank is the title of the project established by Vancity Community Foundation in response to that recommendation and the funding provided by the Province of BC. The funding will be used to support existing rent banks and to help establish a province-wide rent bank system. The goal is that regardless of where you live in the province you can be supported to help maintain your housing.

Rent banks in BC granted 206 short-term loans in 2018-2019, and a recent client Jane* (not her real name), single mother and full-time university student, is grateful for the support she received from Kamloops-based Elizabeth Fry Society. “Not only has the Rent Bank allowed my family to remain housed and safe, but this resource provided me a sense of emotional security.” Jane paid off her loan, has maintained her housing, and is a rent bank’s model success story.

To qualify for support, low-income 19+ renters must provide documentation of their current debt load, proof of residence, and demonstrate capacity of re-payment. For more information or to find your local rent bank, visit https://bcrentbank.ca/locations.

For more information
BC Rent Bank, www.bcrentbank.ca, info@bcrentbank.ca.