After Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said on Friday that the city was calling on the province “to immediately ban evictions in the city and to provide their own rental assistance” for those unable to pay the rent as a result of business closures, BC Housing Minister Selina Robinson said on Saturday morning that “no one should be evicted from any BC Housing-funded building during this crisis.”
Robinson said BC Housing has implemented a moratorium on eviction for non-payment of rent in their directly managed properties and is also working with non-profit housing providers around the province to do the same.
In addition, the process of applying for a rent reduction is being streamlined for tenants who have lost income as a result of COVID-19. This includes changing the rules to remove the requirement for proof that the decrease in income is permanent.
Noting that “these are particularly challenging times,” Robinson said the province is also taking other actions to help protect those experiencing homelessness and other vulnerable people through actions, which include:
- The development of distinct protocols and identification of sites to support isolation for vulnerable people experiencing homelessness – sheltered or unsheltered – and those in private single room occupancy (SROs) and social housing buildings;
sustaining service providers through continued payments to ensure they can pay their staff and operating costs;
- Centralized procurement for critical supplies needed by frontline providers, including gloves and cleaning products.
“Frontline workers are working tirelessly to ensure that vulnerable residents are protected across the province, recognizing the significant added risks that vulnerable people face in the context of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Robinson.
“We are committed to making sure these frontline workers have the support they need to do their job – whether that’s in the form of safe spaces for people who need isolation or personal protective equipment for staff working in the field,” she said. “We are all in this together.”
- See also:
Winter shelters stay open, protocols developing
The province is also developing isolation protocols in partnership with local governments and health authorities based on the needs of vulnerable residents in each region.
In Vancouver, temporary winter shelters that would “typically be phased out this time of year will also remain open to continue to provide services to people,” said BC Housing CEO Shayne Ramsay. “We are working…to identify locations that will be ready when needed in order to deal with any infections that we get into shelters and SROS and folks need to isolate to other locations.”
And “while in some situations self-isolation may be possible within a unit, additional locations have been identified throughout the province for those situations where off-site isolation of one or more people is required,” said Robinson.
“While all of us are feeling the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, there is no doubt that our most vulnerable populations including the homeless and the working poor are disproportionately affected,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.
“We are working together with our partners at every level of government and in the social services sector to find safe and efficient ways to provide supports to the people who need them the most as quickly as possible.”
Beyond BC Housing
Across the board, Robinson said she knows “that many people are worried about how they’re going to make ends meet, put food on the table, and pay rent.”
As such, she took the opportunity “to reassure those who are afraid of losing their homes because they can’t pay the rent, that housing is on the way.”
Robinson said more details would be offered regrading this plan, as well as “financial relief that is coming for people” early this upcoming week.
She also spoke about the help renters who have lost their jobs and struggling financially – and who aren’t in a BC Housing-operated facility – could expect.
“We are absolutely aware about the stress people are under,” she said. “We are working on that moratorium and what’s it’s going to look like, and there’s more coming in the next number of days that will have the specific details about how people can have – and be guaranteed – security of rent and how they can make rent. We don’t want anyone evicted during this very difficult time.
Robinson said the province is currently putting together a finance package “to ensure that people an have a safe place to call home.”
More to come…