Help is on the way for local renters on the edge of losing their accommodation due to temporary financial crisis, including employment uncertainties caused by COVID-19.
The Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria, in partnership with the B.C. Rent Bank, is offering short-term financial assistance in the form of interest-free loans for eligible renters in low- to moderate-income households.
Designed as a cushion for people who have the ability to repay the loan in six to 24 months, the money can be used for current or overdue rent, utilities or security deposits and first month’s rent to secure housing.
“Our recent research has shown the extent of housing insecurity in the region and how vulnerable households were when COVID-19 hit,” community council executive director Diana Gibson said in a release.
Other programs targeting those adversely affected by the pandemic were unveiled this week, including the availability of one-time housing grants funded by the federal Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy initiative. The Capital Regional District will administer the non-repayable grants worth up to $3,000. In all, more than $500,000 is being made available through April 30 for people whose arrears on rent threaten their housing stability.
The Greater Victoria Housing Relief Security Fund is a separate one-time housing grant program available between February and the end of April that will provide eligible applicants support for rent, essential utilities and basic needs.
According to the community council, 44 per cent of renter households pre-COVID in Greater Victoria were housing insecure, meaning they spent more than 30 per cent of their income on shelter costs (rent and utilities). Of people in that situation, one in five spent 50 per cent or more on shelter costs.
“We know that the impact of COVID-19 has resulted in increased vulnerability for renters, and that a rent bank provides a vital service in assisting people to maintain their housing,” said Melissa Giles, project lead for the BC Rent Bank.
To find out more about the various rental assistance programs, visit communitycouncil.ca/rentbank.