Renters in the Cowichan Valley who are having trouble paying their rent and other housing needs may soon be eligible to receive some financial assistance.
The Cowichan Housing Association is in the process of developing a two-year emergency-loan rent-bank pilot project to support renters in the Cowichan Valley struggling to pay their housing bills.
A rent bank is a short-term or temporary homelessness prevention tool that helps to provide housing stability for low- to-moderate income renters who are unable to pay rent or utilities due to episodes or emergencies that compromise their ability to pay.
John Horn, executive director of the CHA, said many renters in the Valley have backlogged rent and other housing bills, some for many months, because they have been unable to come up with the money during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been said that these people’s rents have been ‘forgiven’ for some time during the pandemic, but all the money still has to be paid at some point,” Horn said.
“Many renters have been arrears for months and it’s unlikely they will be able to pay all that money owed, so we see a crisis looming.”
Horn said rent banks complement their loans with access to other information and supports, including financial advice, mediations between renters and landlords, and access to other services to help stabilize their clients’ housing in the future.
He said the CHA intends to use under $100,000 from the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s affordable housing function that voters gave the green light to in a referendum during the last municipal election to begin a local rent bank.
The rent bank will be set up under the auspices of the BC Rent Bank, a project funded by the province to help establish rent banks around B.C.
The CHA will host an online Rent Bank Lunch & Learn for people interested in the program on April 7, from 12:30 to 1 p.m., with guest speaker Melissa Giles from the BC Rent Bank, that will include an information session and an opportunity for participants to ask questions.
Those interested in taking part in the event should email firstname.lastname@example.org for a Zoom link to the session.
Horn said the Valley’s rent bank will focus on renters that already have relationships with social agencies in the Valley, or those with referrals from the landlords of commercial housing buildings in the area.
“A lot of details have yet to be worked out, but we don’t want people coming from out of the blue, getting a loan and then we never see them again,” he said.
“We have to be confident that we’ll get the money back. We don’t want to make money from this, but there are some expenses, including administrative costs, that we may have to pass on to the borrowers.”