Manitoba will give some renters interest-free loans to prevent eviction, cover unpaid utility bills

The province is developing a rent bank for tenants to access if they're behind on their rent, face overdue utility bills or need to move elsewhere, Families Minister Rochelle Squires announced on Monday. 

Province developing a $5.6 million 'rent bank' for tenants of low or moderate-income

The Manitoba government is funding the creation of a rent bank that will be helpful to people who need the cash to pay their rent. (Riley Laychuk/CBC )

Manitoba will provide interest-free loans to renters struggling to make ends meet.

The province is developing a rent bank for tenants of low or moderate income who are behind on their rent or utility bills, or need to move elsewhere, Families Minister Rochelle Squires announced on Monday. 

Manitoba will commit $5.6 million to the two-year pilot program, which will be distributed through the Manitoba Non-Profit Housing Association.

"Other major jurisdictions have rent banks. It's never been done here in Manitoba so this is a first of its kind," Squires said at a news conference. 

Squires says the financial hardships brought on by the pandemic have illustrated the importance of protecting people from eviction. 

The province will regularly assess the uptick of the program to determine whether the criteria are appropriate and enough money has been set aside, Squires says. She didn't have an estimate on how many households might apply.

"Ultimately, we just want to keep as many families stable as possible," she said.

Affordable housing beyond the perimeter

The families minister also promised to distribute $12 million to develop affordable housing in 10 of the largest municipalities outside Winnipeg.

Each of the municipalities — Brandon, Dauphin, Flin Flon, Morden, Portage la Prairie, Selkirk, Steinbach, The Pas, Thompson and Winkler — can use the funding as they see fit, Squires says. 

She says the province wanted to expand affordable housing choices beyond Ottawa's Rapid Housing Initiative, which poured money into Winnipeg and Indigenous on-reserve communities. Mayor Brian Bowman said Winnipeg could create 88 new affordable housing units through its $12.5-million share of the federal government's $1-billion initiative. 

Manitoba expects its new funding pledge will benefit Indigenous households, single-parent families, new Canadians and youth-led households.

The NDP's housing critic questioned whether all the rent bank money will go to the people who need it. 

"Long-term solutions to the challenges facing people without shelter means addressing addictions, mental health issues and the continuing issues in the [Child and Family Services] system," MLA Danielle Adams said in a statement.

"The province should use a housing first approach, which would see them building social housing units as a first step toward addressing those other challenges."

With files from Ian Froese


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