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