FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
VANCOUVER, BC (April 28, 2020) – The B.C. Government demonstrated significant leadership with the introduction of a rent supplement program for residential renters, formally launched in very short order, with cheques for April 1 rent already starting to flow. It is also important that we acknowledge the considerable efforts of the team at BC Housing tasked with administering the program under very trying circumstances.
Here is the dilemma. The current benefit amount is inadequate for a vast majority of renters relative to the monthly rent they are responsible for and, furthermore, the selection criteria is in our view leaving many renters behind. The good news is that there’s time to fix this for May 1 when we are predicting a significant spike in the number of renters unable to pay their rent. We are therefore calling for immediate action from the BC Government. Specifically, we are asking that effective May 1 the current rent supplement benefit amount be increased to $750 per month for renters with no dependents, and $1000 per month for renters with dependents. Furthermore, we are calling on the BC Government to remove the income test and to extend this enhanced benefit through August 2020.
Governments have three primary responsibilities during a crisis of this nature; responding to the health risks to protect citizens and ensuring they have food and shelter. When the pandemic originally struck Canada, the Federal Government should have immediately launched a robust rent supplement program for all Canadian renters. They knew very quickly that social isolation was key to containing COVID-19 and that meant ensuring folks had a home to stay in. Renters represent in the order of one-third of all Canadian households, and this ratio is relatively consistent province-by-province. Furthermore, the Federal Government has access to robust data on renters. They know that a significant proportion of renters are spending 30%, 50% or more of their household income on rent and utilities, especially in major urban centres. In Vancouver alone, according to the Canadian Rental Housing Index, 44% of renter households are spending 30% of their income on rent and utilities, and 23% are spending more than 50% of their income. A Federal rent supplement program could have been in place for April 1 and would have significantly mitigated the harm both renters and rental housing providers have suffered in the interim, and would have made unnecessary many of the legislative measures most provinces enacted that have further exacerbated the situation. Had the Federal Government launched a robust residential rent supplement program from day-one, the rental housing ecosystem would have largely continued functioning normally. We are now unfortunately learning from the Prime Minister that the Federal government has no intention of more appropriately addressing the specific needs of residential renter households. So, it’s up to you BC Government. It is now more critical than ever that the BC Government act now and with purpose to enhance its rent supplement program to $750 and $1000 respectively for renters with and without dependents, remove the income test and, extend the enhanced benefit through August 2020. The stakes are very high.
LandlordBC is an industry association representing owners and managers of rental housing in BC. (www.landlordbc.ca)