Manitoba launches ‘rent bank’ program to loan money to low-income residents

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The province is launching a “rent bank” in the hopes of assisting low-to-moderate income families who need help paying their rent.

The $5.6-million program will hand out interest-free loans to people who are behind on their rent or need to move to more appropriate housing, said families minister Rochelle Squires on Monday.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a need to support renters experiencing an unexpected interruption of income that threatens their tenancies,” Squires said.

Read more: Rent bank aims to keep people off the streets

“This Manitoba Rent Bank will address the immediate need created by the pandemic, providing housing stability and protection for families that are unable to pay shelter costs due to unforeseen circumstances.”

The money will be administered through the Manitoba Non-Profit Housing Association, said Christina Maes Nino, executive director of the MNPHA.

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“No landlord wants to evict someone because they are struggling financially and this will be a critical resource to keep people housed.”

There are currently rent bank programs in cities such as Toronto and Vancouver. Other cities, like Kelowna, launched programs this year in the midst of the pandemic.

Click to play video: 'Behind on rent or utilities? CMHA Kelowna launches rent bank in Central Okanagan'
Behind on rent or utilities? CMHA Kelowna launches rent bank in Central Okanagan

“If we are able to divert people from the payday loan system, where it takes 30 per cent of somebody’s paycheque right off the top, then you know it’s a win,” said Shelagh Turner, executive director at the Canadian Mental Health Association branch in Kelowna.

The Manitoba program will run for a two-year period, said Squires, after which it will be evaluated for future support.

“This announcement may help some, but it seems like another PC program designed to be unsubscribed—meaning it will be announced with fanfare, but the dollars won’t actually go out the door to help people,” said MLA Danielle Adams, the NDP Critic for housing in a statement.

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“Long-term solutions to the challenges facing people without shelter means addressing addictions, mental health issues and the continuing issues in the CFS system.”

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