British Columbia

Will they have to rely on the 'kindness' of landlords? Renters still waiting for B.C. relief plan

Metro Vancouver mayors are urging the province to freeze evictions and offer support to landlords as many B.C. tenants struggle to make ends meet because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Metro Vancouver mayors, housing activists call for a ban on evictions amid COVID-19 pandemic

The B.C. government says more details on the plan for rental relief will come on Wednesday. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

Metro Vancouver mayors are urging the province to freeze evictions and offer support to landlords as many B.C. tenants struggle to make ends meet because of the COVID-19 crisis.

With little more than a week before rent cheques are due, tenants still don't have answer from the province on whether they can expect some sort of relief, apart from the finance minister's hopes that landlords will show "kindness" and "respect."

In a letter addressed to Premier John Horgan and Housing Minister Selina Robinson on Monday, the region's mayors say there's an urgent need for measures supporting both renters and landlords.

"In Metro Vancouver where rents are among the highest in the country, we are asking the province to prohibit evictions," White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker said in a news release.

"We urge the provincial government to work with Ottawa to provide support to those renters in financial difficulty and unable to pay rent. That way we can better ensure small landlords with mortgage helpers are able to maintain their homes."

The mayors are also calling for an expansion of the provincial tax deferment program, extended due dates for taxes collected by municipalities and regional governments, and unconditional grants to cities.

Many renters who are now out of work because of the pandemic had hoped to get an answer on the province's plan on Monday, but instead learned they'll have to wait until Wednesday for more information.

"I'm incredibly encouraged by stories about landlords … who've already taken steps to pause evictions of tenants, taking that step of kindness at a time when we need it the most. I'm hopeful that other landlords will show respect for their tenants in these extraordinary times," Finance Minister Carole James said at a press conference Monday.

The province has already announced a moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent in properties managed by B.C. Housing.

James said the government is looking into further options like expanding the Shelter Aid For Elderly Renters (SAFER) subsidy for seniors and the Rental Assistance Program (RAP) for low-income working people.

'Hope' isn't enough, advocates say

It's not yet clear whether those supports will be available to everyone who has been put out of work by the COVID-19 pandemic, however.

B.C. ACORN, an organization that advocates for low and moderate-income families, says the province needs to declare a moratorium on all evictions and freeze the requirement to pay rent for all tenants.

"We don't need hope that landlords will behave at this time, we need government action to prevent all evictions during the pandemic," Burnaby ACORN's Murray Martin said in a news release.

"Unprecedented numbers of workers are being laid off and the last thing we need in the middle of the worst pandemic in 100 years is to have them worrying that they cannot eat or will be living on the streets."

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