The province has unveiled a new temporary rental supplement program and moved to freeze rents and halt evictions to help people who’ve lost income because of COVID-19 and ensure at least some cash flow for landlords.
The rental supplement of $500 per month will be available to anyone on EI or other federal or provincial income support programs and will be paid directly to landlords.
“With lost jobs and lost wages due to COVID-19, many tenants are worried they can't make the rent. It's a challenging time for landlords too,” said Premier John Horgan. “Nobody should lose their home as a result of COVID-19. Our plan will give much-needed financial relief to renters and landlords. It will also provide more security for renters, who will be able to stay in their homes without fear of eviction or increasing rents.”
The premier said, however, “if you can pay your rent, you should pay your rent.”
“This fund is there to help people who are in genuine distress and the fewer people who access the program the more opportunity we have to expand it going forward.”
Horgan also said several details, such as whether the $500 will be per rental unit or per person living there, allowing roommates to pool their rebates to cover rent, are still to be finalized.
Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, said landlords will now be able to put limits on use of common spaces, such as restricting the number of people in a laundry room at one time, and tenants will not be obligated to give landlords access to their units “unless there is a clear threat to people or their property.”
The program will be administered by BC Housing.
Before making the announcement, Robinson also mentioned the government is taking steps to help the homeless and vulnerable populations, some of which were announced last weekend, such as a halt on evictions for non-payment of rents for tenants of BC Housing funded projects and “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 and social housing buildings.”
“On that front there is much more to do, and more to come,” Robinson said.
One issue that was not addressed in the weekend announcement was the temporary cold weather shelters, which are slated to close at the end of the month.
One of those shelters, with 15 beds, has been operating out of a Town of Gibsons building on South Fletcher Road.
In a statement to Coast Reporter, BC Housing said the shelter in Gibsons closed early, on March 19, “due to a limited number of available staff in the region.”
The shelter was staffed and managed by RainCity Housing.
“As each shelter manages their own staff, it is up to the shelter to determine if they are able to remain open,” the BC Housing statement said. “All guests at the temporary shelter in Gibsons were offered a space at the permanent shelter in Sechelt that remains open.”
BC Housing said it is working with the province, the federal government, municipalities, health authorities, and “partners across the housing spectrum” to develop solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
BC Housing did not say if funding would be made available to reopen the shelter for an extended season if staff are available.