The B.C. government is offering up to $500 in rent supplement payments for each of the next four months to help people stay in their homes as their income is affected by COVID-19.
Premier John Horgan announced the rent supplement plan March 25, along with a freeze on rent increases and most evictions. Horgan warned that the new fund is reserved for people who have lost their jobs, had hours cut or are confined at home due to the virus threat.
“If you can pay your rent, you should pay your rent,” Horgan said.
Like the $1,000 relief for laid-off people B.C. announced earlier in the coronavirus emergency, Horgan said eligibility will depend on being eligible for the federal government’s Employment Insurance expansion. Layoff notices or other documentation will be required.
The application process through B.C. Housing is still “a work in progress,” Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson said.
Horgan said he is aware that April rent is due soon and $500 is only part of the solution for many renters. He urged people to work with landlords, such as temporarily using damage deposits.
“We can’t guarantee it will be in their pockets by April 1,” Horgan said. “We are going to get the resources into people’s hands as quickly as possible.”
The program will be funded out of the $5 billion aid package the B.C. legislature approved in an emergency session March 22.
Evictions under the residential tenancy regulations will not go ahead unless there are issues of safety involved, said Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, the B.C. government’s advisor on rental housing.
B.C. Housing administers existing rent supplements and will send the new payments directly to landlords. Robinson said that is the fastest way to deliver the support and also helps landlords make their mortgage payments during a critical time.
“We’re helping renters pay rent and giving them the peace of mind that they have a stable home in these unprecedented times, and ensuring that landlords can count on some rental income right now to keep them afloat too,” Robinson said.
Horgan called on financial institutions to provide some flexibility on mortgages to allow time for the aid to reach people from the federal and provincial governments, and the COVID-19 pandemic to work its way through and allow normal life again.