Renters struggling to meet ends meet can apply to the Greater Victoria Rent Bank (GVRB) program until March 2022, thanks to new funding from United Way Greater Victoria and renewed commitment from BC Rent Bank.
Since February, the GVRB has operated as a pilot project under the Community Social Planning Council (CSPC) with funding from BC Rent Bank. Like other rent banks in 300 communities across the province, the GVRB provides small interest-free loans, mediation and financial literacy services for renters in short-term or unanticipated shortages of income. Loans may also be complemented by grants “where funding allows,” according to a press release from the CSPC.
“The demand for the COVID-19 pilot program was overwhelming,” said Diana Gibson, executive director of the Community Social Planning Council. In its first 10 weeks, more than $300,000 had been distributed to 200 renters, she said.
According to Gibson, as many applicants applied as a result of their units being sold as those who applied due to pandemic-related income loss. “Housing market pressures are a part of the driving force [for the GVRB’s need],” said Gibson.
Nearly half of Greater Victoria households are housing insecure, according to Melissa Giles, BC Rent Bank’s project lead, with one in five spending more than half of their income on housing.
“And we know that rent banks provide much-needed services, which is the reason we are building the foundation of a provincial network that is making a real difference in renters’ lives right here in Greater Victoria,” she said
David Eby, minister responsible for housing, said part of addressing the homelessness crisis is preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place.
“Rent banks have been proven to be successful in helping people in financial distress keep their homes,” he said.
United Way Greater Victoria CEO Mark Breslauer said his organization was proud to be a “foundational supporter” of the GVRB, and thanked the government of B.C. for leading the way for the initiative.
Although the United Way’s support is vital seed funding, Gibson said that larger and consistent funds are required for the program to survive long-term.
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