B.C. mak­ing $500 a month avail­able to ren­ters who lost in­come source

Vancouver Sun - - CITY - SCOTT BROWN with files from The Cana­dian Press sbrown@post­media.com twitter.com/ brown­i­escott

The B.C. govern­ment will be of­fer­ing $500 a month to help ren­ters deal­ing with a loss of in­come due to the COVID-19 pan­demic.

The sup­ple­men­tal funds will be avail­able through B.C. Hous­ing for the next four months and paid di­rectly to land­lords when a ten­ant can­not pay rent.

“We are do­ing ev­ery­thing we can to make sure that if (peo­ple) are sick or self-iso­lat­ing, or if they have had their hours cut back or they were laid off that they would not be fear­ful of los­ing their home,” Pre­mier John Hor­gan said.

Hor­gan said only peo­ple un­able to pay their rent should ap­ply for the rental sup­ple­ment.

“The fewer peo­ple who ac­cess the pro­gram, the more op­por­tu­nity we have to ex­pand it,” said Hor­gan, not­ing there are about 500,000 ren­ters in B.C. “I ap­peal to those who have perhaps sav­ings ac­crued ... and can con­tinue to keep them­selves go­ing in the short term, please do so, so that we can make sure we tar­get re­sources where they’re most needed.”

The prov­ince is also or­der­ing a sus­pen­sion of evic­tions, in­clud­ing those in progress al­ready — and putting a full freeze on rental in­creases — un­til the cri­sis has passed.

B.C. joined Man­i­toba, Nova Sco­tia, On­tario, Que­bec, Prince Edward Is­land and the North­west Ter­ri­to­ries in ban­ning evic­tions re­sult­ing from non­pay­ment of rent.

Peo­ple are be­ing told to self-iso­late at home dur­ing the pan­demic and the pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing evicted must be pre­vented, Hor­gan said.

Holly Pope­nia, a lawyer with the Com­mu­nity Le­gal As­sis­tance So­ci­ety rep­re­sent­ing ten­ant ad­vo­cacy groups, says the mora­to­rium on evic­tions is welcome news for ren­ters, but she won­ders what will hap­pen once the COVID-19 cri­sis is over.

“What hap­pens to tenants who were un­able to make their rent pay­ments dur­ing the cri­sis? Will they be on the hook for all this rent?” Pope­nia asked. “Will evic­tions that were cur­rently un­der­way be­fore this sus­pen­sion con­tinue im­me­di­ately af­ter? What’s the time­line for get­ting back to busi­ness?”

Lead­Now, a Cana­dian cit­i­zens ad­vo­cacy group, also ap­plauded Hor­gan’s evic­tion freeze, but said the govern­ment’s $500 rental sup­ple­ment doesn’t go far enough.

“We’ve been over­whelmed with mes­sages from tenants who don’t know how they’re go­ing to af­ford rent next month. With some of the most ex­pen­sive rents in the coun­try, $500 doesn’t go far enough for ren­ters in B.C. No one should have to choose be­tween spread­ing the COVID -19 virus and pay­ing rent,” Lead­Now se­nior cam­paigner Claire Gallagher said in a state­ment.

David Hut­niak, CEO of Land­lordBC, says the mora­to­rium on evic­tions opens up a huge risk for rental providers.

“We are at risk here of hav­ing a whole bunch of ren­ters not pay­ing their rent on April 1, whether they can af­ford it or not,” Hut­niak said.

“Whether you are a small land­lord or a big land­lord, you have a mort­gage and you’ve got ex­penses to cover. (Hor­gan) is sug­gest­ing that he ex­pects banks and lend­ing in­sti­tu­tions to be sen­si­tive to land­lords by de­fer­ring mort­gage pay­ments, but that doesn’t guar­an­tee us any­thing or pro­vide us with any pro­tec­tion.”

Hor­gan ac­knowl­edged that $500 doesn’t go a long way in B.C.’s pricey rental mar­ket, but said the money fills a gap along with em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance ben­e­fits, the fed­eral govern­ment’s just an­nounced $2,000-a-month Canada Emer­gency Re­sponse Ben­e­fit, and the prov­ince’s one-time, $1,000 B.C. Emer­gency Ben­e­fit for Work­ers pay­ment.

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