As COVID-19 cases continue to soar in B.C. putting it ahead of Ontario as our nation’s hardest hit province, BC Housing has ordered a temporary moratorium on evictions of tenants in subsidized and affordable housing.
According to a bulletin issued March 18, the government is asking that organizations refrain from issuing any “Notices to End Tenancy” during the pandemic to ensure vulnerable citizens continue to have a safe place to live.
The bulletin also states that the process for applying for a rent reduction in B.C. will be streamlined for those tenants who have lost income as a result of COVID-19. If there are circumstances in which a tenant is in rent arrears, those situations will be revisited after the crisis is over. In instances where a tenant’s behaviour is threatening the life, health or safety of others, housing providers should “complete a full management review” taking the extreme circumstances of the virus outbreak into consideration before proceeding with an eviction process.
The Vancouver Tenants Union and other advocacy groups say that far more needs to be done, calling on the provincial government to enact an immediate moratorium on all evictions until the pandemic COVID 19 declaration is lifted. In addition to this and other measures, the group is asking that landlords uphold a “period of grace” and agree to accept “reasonable payment plans” when things normalize in the weeks or months ahead.
Meanwhile, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart is calling for the creation of a rent bank that would be open to all British Columbians. Currently, the City of Vancouver has its own rent bank (VRB) available to low income residents at risk of eviction or essential utility disconnection due to a temporary shortage of funds. Reportedly, staff at VRB are overwhelmed by the number of online requests, leading many to suspect that the rent bank’s funding will soon dry up.