BC Rent Bank: Access expanded to urgent interest-free loans for covering rent

Nov 24 2021, 4:36 am

The services of the BC Rent Bank have been expanded to more areas of British Columbia, now reaching 100% geographical coverage across the province.

The program operated by Vancity Community Foundation assists low- to moderate-income renters by providing them with access to interest-free loans in emergency situations. Such aid helps ensure they are not evicted when they have unpaid rent.

It is intended to be a temporary short stopgap measure for renters who suddenly lose income, and it effectively prevents homelessness. The loans can be directed towards rent, essential utilities, or toward the deposit of the first month’s rent for tenants who have secured housing but cannot fulfill the initial requirements.

BC Rent Bank’s latest expansion introduces their services to Vancouver Island, southern areas of Okanagan, and northern areas of the province, which previously did not have access to rent bank loans. This is achieved through a temporary partnership with the Kamloops and District Elizabeth Fry Society.

“Today, renters in every corner of BC have access to rent bank loans and services. This is a major milestone for our project to achieve, considering that two years ago there were seven rent bank locations primarily in the Metro Vancouver area,” said Melissa Giles, project manager for BC Rent Bank, in a statement.

“Rent banks are much more than lenders. We are very much focused on the whole person – the renter who is experiencing housing insecurity and financial shocks – and we are striving to care for their well-being beginning with stable and safe housing.”

Supported by an initial $10-million investment from the provincial government, the BC Rent Bank first launched in 2019 as a three-year pilot project, with the service’s current framework set to end in 2022. It is expected to be renewed.

Based on its latest progress report, the program received 613 applications for assistance during the 2019-2020 fiscal year, which resulted in the issuance of 265 loans. This benefited a total of 4,337 people (all individuals living in a household).

During the second fiscal year, 2020-2021, the program saw 994 applications. The bank’s aid helped a total of 4,351 people from 405 loans, 449 grants, and 53 grants/loan combinations.

Throughout the first two fiscal years, nearly 8,700 people were positively impacted by the rent bank’s aid.

According to their survey of recipients three months after receiving assistance, 100% of renters who were provided with a loan or combination of a grant/loan were still stably housed, 82% of renters who received a loan were stably housed, and 83% of people who received a grant and loan combination stated the rent bank as the primary reason they stayed housed.

But there was less usage of the rent bank’s services in 2020, even with the economic effects of COVID-19. The temporary pandemic-time ban on rent evictions, temporary rent freeze, and various supplements and grants covering rent and lost income by the provincial and federal governments resulted in reduced reliance on the rent bank. However, an increase in demand is expected moving forward now that these government programs have largely ended.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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