A new rent bank program has launched in Greater Victoria to assist renters at risk of eviction or utility cut off.
The Greater Victoria Rent Bank Program, run by the Community Social Planning Council (CSPC), will provide short-term financial help for low-to-moderate income renters at risk of losing their home. The CSPC hopes this will help prevent homelessness in the region.
“The idea of a rent bank is that a lot of the folks we work with in the population that is experiencing homelessness have had a temporary crisis — a health crisis or a job loss — and this program can help bridge folks through a temporary crisis and keep them housed,” said Diana Gibson, executive director of the CSPC.
One in five renters are spending more than 50 per cent of their income on housing, according to the CSPC.
“When somebody gets in a financial crises or a temporary crises, [and they’re] paying more than half their income in rent, then there isn’t a cushion,” Gibson explained.
With funding from the rent bank, however, these individuals can get enough money to hold them over.
Families or individuals going through a temporary shortage of funds can apply for small, interest-free loans amounting less than $3,000. These funds can be used for rent, utilities or security deposits to secure housing.
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Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, 44 per cent of renters in the region were housing insecure, Gibson said, adding the situation has gotten worse since.
People facing rent arrears as a result of the pandemic are able to apply for a one-time grant of up to $3,000 before April 30, 2021.
Eligible renters include those who have a regular source of income but are facing a temporary financial crisis. Individuals must also meet low-income requirements. Full criteria can be found on the CSPC website.
The program is meant to be a short-term solution and may not be an option for those without any capacity to pay rent in the future.
The Greater Victoria Rent Bank is one of 17 rent banks operating throughout the province, with funds from the government.