(Courtesy photo)

Editorial: Rent bank for Cowichan a wise investment

It’s essentially the collective emergency fund

We know there are a lot of people everywhere in Canada who live paycheque to paycheque, and the Cowichan Valley is no different.

These folks work hard, sometimes at multiple jobs, yet due to low wages and high everyday living expenses they have a tough, if not impossible, time saving something for a rainy day after necessities such as food, medications and rent are paid. Some are the working poor, some are seniors on a fixed income. For these people all it can take is one unexpected expense — a car breaks down, they get sick and have to miss work — to put them in a precarious position.

The Cowichan Housing Association is working to set up a safety net for this type of situation with the proposal of a rent bank. A rent bank would help to pay rent or utilities for someone for a fixed period of time due to an emergency or episode that leaves them unable to pay. John Horn, executive director of CHA, says he sees a crisis looming with back rent that will be coming due for people after COVID freezes are lifted.

This is a great idea. It’s essentially the collective emergency fund that these low or moderate income people cannot accumulate on their own.

It will help make sure landlords get paid (they have expenses they must meet, too). It will help to keep people housed and off the street. Borrowers can pay back the money a little at a time as they are able, so the fund will not simply be drained. We need this kind of safety net in Cowichan.

Often once people lose their housing they fall further and further behind financially. To find somewhere new to rent, after all, one will most likely need first and last month’s rent, plus some kind of security deposit. For someone already struggling to make ends meet, that can be an almost insurmountable hill to climb.

Homelessness and the risk of it effects people’s health, of course. It’s also a health risk to have people trying to decide between medications and rent, or food and rent. These are choices that in our wealthy country, it is appalling that people are having to face.

It is proposed that the money for the rent bank would come from the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s affordable housing function. It seems to fit the bill of what the function is trying to achieve for our Valley. It would take less than $100,000 and could help hundreds. Seems like a worthwhile investment.