On Tuesday B.C. became the first province in Canada to have rent bank services available to all residents, and the BC Rent Bank has already seen three times their daily average of new applications.
The province extended the service through a partnership with BC Rent Bank and the Kamloops and District Elizabeth Fry Society. Four regional districts on Vancouver Island now have the service which did not before: Strathcona, Comox, Cowichan Valley, Mount Waddington and Alberni-Clayoquot.
“Today, renters in every corner of B.C. have access to rent bank loans and services. This is a major milestone for our project to achieve, considering that two years ago there were seven rent bank locations primarily in the Metro Vancouver area,” said Melissa Giles, project manager for the BC Rent Bank.
BC Rent Bank made a pitch to the Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness back in March, which was well received by members. At the time, Giles explained that the microloan program helps people make their monthly rent payments or payments in arrears to landlords or utilities to prevent evictions.
“The perceptions of programs like ours are really interesting, but at the end of the day, there are people who are working and they face a temporary crisis or a bump in the road,” she said. “In a lot of cases they’re able to navigate it and make it though, but sometimes it’s just a little bit too much.”
However, a lack of capacity for a local group to host the service meant that they had to find an interim solution.
“Our ideal vision is that we have local partners that can respond. They know the local market rental rates, they have referrals to their local agencies and those sorts of things,” Giles said. “We didn’t want to have renters continue to wait for services and not be able to receive assistance based on the fact that we couldn’t find a community partner to lead the program.”
If the program was just about microloans, Giles said they would have centralized and done everything from Vancouver a long time ago. Part of what rent banks do though is help make sure clients are able to get back on their feet after difficulties.
“Rent banks do so much more for people. They look at ensuring ‘hey this person needs whatever other forms of assistance there are’ and they’re connecting people to local resources that will help stabilize things,” Giles said. “We miss that when we have to go through this province-wide option, but I think it’s the best thing right now to make sure that renters’ needs are met while we continue to work on that long-term goal.”
Giles will be connecting the Kamloops and District Elizabeth Fry Society, BC Rent Bank’s partner organization, with local groups like CRDCEH to build a database of local supports for their case managers.
Those interested in applying for a loan from the BC Rent Bank can do so at bcrentbank.ca and clicking on the ‘apply’ button.