The Kelowna branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association has unveiled a pilot project that is aiming to increase housing stability in the Central Okanagan.
It’s called the ‘Central Okanagan Rent Bank‘ and its singular purpose is to provide interest-free loans to low- and middle-income people struggling to pay rent.
The rent bank loan can be compared to a loan, but only for paying rent or utilities – and, importantly, without high interest rates.
“We are focusing on the prevention of homelessness so rent bank can provide short-term financial help,” said Jennifer Kanters, associate director of housing and homeless services at CMHA Kelowna.
“If we are able to divert people from the payday loan system, where it takes 30 per cent of somebody’s paycheck right off the top, then you know it’s a win,” said Shelagh Turner, executive director at CMHA Kelowna.
“As of February this year, we now have 17 rent banks throughout the province,” said Melissa Giles, project lead for the BC Rent Bank.
“We know that about 86 per cent of the renter population can now have access to a rent bank service.”
In order to qualify for a rent bank loan, you must be 19 years or older, live where the service is provided, owe less than two months’ rent or utilities and have the capacity to repay the loan.
Applicants must also demonstrate a low household income.
For now, CMHA Kelowna has the required funding to back the program for a year.
However, they’re hoping that the rent bank will become a permanent program.