Premier John Horgan announced Wednesday that the B.C. government will be offering $500 per month to help renters dealing with a loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The supplemental funds will be available through B.C. Housing and paid directly to landlords.
“We are doing everything we can to make sure that if (people) are sick or self-isolating, or if they have had their hours cut back or they were laid off that they would not be fearful of losing their home,” Horgan said.
Horgan said only people unable to pay their rent should apply for the rental supplement.
“The fewer people who access the program, the more opportunity we have to expand it going forward,” said Horgan, noting there are about 500,000 renters in B.C.
Horgan acknowledged that $500 doesn’t go a long way in B.C.’s pricey rental market, but said the money fills a gap along with the federal government’s $2,000-per-month Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and the province’s one-time, $1,000 B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers payment.
The province is also suspending current and future evictions — and instituting a full freeze on rental increases — until the crisis has passed.
“People are feeling a lot of fear and anxiety and they need to be able to depend on the comfort and stability of home right now. Our government is taking steps to help take some of the pressure off renters and landlords and protect people’s health,” said Selina Robinson, minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
“We’re helping renters pay rent and giving them the peace of mind that they have a stable home in these unprecedented times, and ensuring that landlords can count on some rental income right now to keep them afloat too.”
The full list of immediate rental/housing measures includes:
• The new temporary rent supplement will provide up to $500 per month, paid directly to landlords.
• Halting evictions by ensuring a landlord may not issue a new notice to end tenancy for any reason. However, in exceptional cases where it may be needed to protect health and safety or to prevent undue damage to the property, landlords will be able to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch for a hearing.
• Halting the enforcement of existing eviction notices issued by the tenancy branch, except in extreme cases where there are safety concerns. The smaller number of court-ordered evictions are up to the courts, which operate independently of government.
• Freezing new annual rent increases during the state of emergency.
• Preventing landlords from accessing rental units without the consent of the tenant (for example, for showings or routine maintenance), except in exceptional cases where it’s needed to protect health and safety or to prevent undue damage to the unit.
• Restricting methods that renters and landlords can use to serve notices to reduce the potential transmission of COVID-19 (no personal service and allowing email).
• Allowing landlords to restrict the use of common areas by tenants or guests to protect against the transmission of COVID-19.
As of the latest numbers released March 24, there are a total of 617 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in B.C. The cases span all B.C. health regions: Vancouver Coastal (330), Fraser Health (194), Island Health (44), Interior Health (41) and Northern Health (eight).
Since COVID-19 hit B.C., 13 people have died, while 59 remain in hospital. Of those, 23 are in intensive care. A total of 173 have recovered so far.
In an effort to halt the spread of the virus, many businesses have been ordered closed, leaving people across B.C. suddenly without work and scrambling to make ends meet during the health crisis.