Some renters fear they'll be living on the streets as eviction bans, CERB come to end
Further rent freezes could put landlords at risk of losing their own own homes, says CEO
A Vancouver-based housing advocate is sounding the alarm over what she says is an impending wave of evictions across this country, as provinces lift protections for renters while the pandemic continues to leave people unemployed.
"I think a lot of people are going to end up homeless or they're going to be precariously housed," said Danielle Sabelli, a lawyer with the Community Legal Assistance Society.
"I fail to see how evicting people is going to restore the economy in any way."
In March, many provinces suspended residential eviction notices in a bid to protect people from the financial shock of the pandemic.
But those orders have since been lifted, leaving many tenants wondering how they will keep a roof over their heads in the coming months — especially as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) comes to an end in October.
Sabelli wants governments to help tenants by reinstating moratoriums on evictions and rent increases, as well as allowing rent forgiveness.
"Renters in B.C., and I'm sure this is the case for many Canadians across the board, were in a precarious position before the pandemic even hit," she told The Current's Matt Galloway.
"And now, of course, with the massive job loss that a lot of people are facing, there are even more Canadians I think that are not able to pay their rent."
'Landlords aren't compassionate': tenant
Vinson Salim, who lives in Toronto's Parkdale neighbourhood, is one of those people.
After being laid off at the onset of the pandemic, he was unable to pay his April rent.
He's since been receiving CERB payments of $2,000 a month. But when he accounts for how much tax he'll have to pay back on that income, Salim said he's left with nothing more than what his rent costs: $1,600 a month.
I've been homeless in the past, so I know exactly where I'm going to end up.- Vinson Salim, Parkdale resident
He said he offered to pay a portion of his monthly rent to his landlord using some of his CERB payment, but instead received an N4 notice — the first step toward evicting a tenant.
"I've been homeless in the past, so I know exactly where I'm going to end up," Salim said.
"This time if I'm going back to the street, I'm not even sure, like, if I'm going to be able to get a bed from the shelter system."
Salim is currently looking for work, and has thought about the idea of deferring his rent payments. However, he fears he will never be able to pay them back, even if he were to find work again soon.
"If I get paid with minimum wage, there's just no way for me to be able to repay my rent back. There's just no way, unless I got a job that pays me, I don't know, like $60,000 or $70,000 a year," he said.
"But I don't see that's going to happen in the future."
Salim said he wants to see governments adjust their attitude toward the working class when it comes to talking about housing.
"We are ... desperate and asking for help, and landlords aren't compassionate," he said. "They're profit seekers."
Impact on landlords
David Hutniak agrees with Salim that governments need to support vulnerable tenants, but argues the housing sector "needs to return to what is normal."
"A rent freeze would basically have many of these people [landlords] lose their own housing or put their own housing at risk," said the CEO of LandlordBC, an industry association representing property owners and managers in British Columbia.
"Rental housing is important. But also, ensuring that the owners and managers of these houses have the wherewithal to maintain their buildings, to continue to pay their mortgage, etc., is critical to the overall economic well-being of our country and the housing ecosystem."
Hutniak said he does not believe there is a wave of evictions coming.
That's because landlords are more motivated than ever to keep their units fully occupied as vacancy rates in Vancouver rise and rental prices drop, he said.
But Sabelli argues not all landlords are struggling to pay their own bills as Hutniak describes.
"So to rely on the same generosity and compassion of landlords to fulfil a promise that no one's going to be evicted or lose their homes during the pandemic is really difficult to imagine," she said.
Written by Kirsten Fenn. Produced by Isabelle Gallant.