Apartment-rental skills program graduates 265 people

Quantifying results, securing core funding next step for Ready to Rent program

After leaving an unhealthy relationship, Sarah Brown (a pseudonym) and her child spent time couch surfing with friends and family. Then she discovered a new program, called Ready to Rent B.C., based in Victoria.

“Sarah learned about managing credit … (and) decided to write a letter of explanation about the events that lead to her eviction and describe why that would not happen in the future,” according to the society running the program.

It’s one of a number of good news stories being broadcast by Ready to Rent this month.

Launched in 2009, it teaches people how to be successful tenants, including how to manage a budget so they can pay rent, and how to get along with neighbours. It also teaches the rights of tenants.

“Some of us are used to navigating the world, used to filling out an application form, used to how to present yourself for the most positive result, and some people just aren’t,” said Ready to Rent’s board chair, Amy Jaarsma. “We’re trying to overcome some of that.”

Barriers to getting housing are much broader than just money, she added.

The group of people from many housing agencies in the city came together to launch the society in 2009. They purchased the licensing rights for the Ready to Rent program from a group in Oregon, and tailored the program to fit tenancy laws in B.C.

To date, 265 people have graduated from the 12-hour program, spread over six weeks.

Some landlords area giving more consideration to tenants who have the Ready-to-Rent certificate, said Al Kemp of Rental Owners and Managers Society of B.C.

Kemp has participated in the classes, giving lectures on landlord expectations.

“It’s a perfect idea, because the person who has maybe gone through some rough stuff in life, or even a teenager whose left home at 18, nobody’s going to rent to that person,” he said.

The Capital Regional Housing Corporation has a policy to overlook poor references if a person has a Ready-to-Rent certificate.

The educational program isn’t a good fit for everyone, however.

Phil Ward, team leader for the Pacifica Housing Services, said sitting in a classroom and paying attention “is a bit of a stretch” for some clients coming off the street.

Instead, Pacifica has a landlord liaison who teaches similar skills, but in a more informal way.

Ready to Rent B.C., by contrast, targets families coming from transitional housing, and also does outreach to youth, Aboriginal communities and other groups.

Beyond anecdotal success stories like Sarah Brown’s, however, there is no research to show whether program graduates obtain and retain housing at higher rates.

“That’s one of our projects, ongoing, is an evaluation but we had to get a body of graduates.” said Jaarsma. They now have that body for study.

The society has a pilot budget of about $180,000, but has no funding commitments beyond the next six to eight months.

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