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Help coming for renters, B.C. premier says, as critics call for full eviction ban

B.C. announces details of $5B coronavirus stimulus package
Finance Minister Carole James announces new measures Monday, March 23 to help British Columbians during the coronavirus pandemic. The package focuses on people's health and safety, bring immediate financial relief, and lay a foundation for economic recovery.

No tenant in B.C. will lose their apartment due to the novel coronavirus crisis, Premier John Horgan told reporters on Monday, saying details about a plan are coming later in the week.

Horgan and Finance Minister Carole James announced a sweeping $5-billion aid package to help British Columbians through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of that funding includes support for people unable to work, and thus, struggling to pay rent.

The government is looking at a range of options to help renters, said James, including expanding the Rental Assistance Program, which provides support for the working poor, and the Shelter Aid For Elderly Renters program.

Coronavirus outbreak: B.C. housing minister says ‘help is on the way’ for renters, homeless
Coronavirus outbreak: B.C. housing minister says ‘help is on the way’ for renters, homeless

James said she has been encouraged by stories of landlords, like Vancouver developer PortLiving, who have paused evictions if tenants are unable to work during the pandemic, and she hopes others will follow suit.

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The province is expected to announce details Wednesday to prevent tenants from being evicted due to circumstances related to COVID-19, but Horgan said the door was open for evictions that have nothing to do with the pandemic.

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The Vancouver Tenants Union took issue with that exception, saying allowing any evictions during a pandemic, regardless of their cause, puts public health at risk.

Growing calls to ban evictions
Growing calls to ban evictions

“Relying on landlords’ good faith to not evict tenants is a complete abdication of government responsibility,” Mazdak Gharibnavaz, a member of the union’s steering committee, said on Monday.

READ MORE: Rent freezes, eviction deferrals needed amid coronavirus fallout: experts

“Many tenants we talked to are being evicted due to renoviction or landlord use and this announcement does nothing for them.”

Many jurisdictions across North America have implemented a blanket ban on evictions, he added.

Last week, BC Housing put in place a temporary moratorium on evictions of tenants in subsidized and affordable housing.

READ MORE: B.C. government vows to protect renters facing eviction due to coronavirus

 

David Hutniak, CEO of Landlord BC, said he awaits more details as well, and adds that the rental sector consists of many “small mom and pop” operations that also need support.

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LandlordBC has advocated for renter supports by way of a rent bank, Hutniak said.

“We cannot allow the rental housing ecosystem to collapse.”