North Coast tenants in Prince Rupert, Terrace and Kitimat will be able to access expanded BC Rent Bank services for emergency assistance with rent and utilities through a new centralized homelessness prevention program, the Elizabeth Fry Society announced, on Nov. 23. (Photo: Langley Advance Times files)

North Coast tenants in Prince Rupert, Terrace and Kitimat will be able to access expanded BC Rent Bank services for emergency assistance with rent and utilities through a new centralized homelessness prevention program, the Elizabeth Fry Society announced, on Nov. 23. (Photo: Langley Advance Times files)

BC Rent Bank program keeps tenants in homes with the heat on

A centralized homelessness prevention program expands to the North Coast

Renters in Prince Rupert and North Coast municipalities, such as Terrace and Kitimat, will now have access to BC Rent Bank services under an extended partnership with the Kamloops and District Elizabeth Fry Society.

“Rent banks help the community’s most vulnerable avoid eviction and homelessness,” North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, said. “By providing residents of North Coast with access to this critical service, we can help prevent people from falling through the cracks.”

BC Rent Bank, which is supported by a $10-million investment from the provincial government, is working to secure long-term partners to provide rent bank services in each of the newly covered 15 regions to localize services and support the delivery of other wraparound services to rent bank clients.

Rent banks are housing stability and homelessness prevention resources that renters can utilize during times of financial hardship or unexpected interruptions to income that jeopardize their housing.

The interest-free loans are for tenants’ rent or vital utilities.

Loans can also be applied toward deposits or the first month’s rent when tenants have secured housing but are unable to provide the initial finds from their own resources.

“We are excited to take on this interim role because we understand first-hand that there is a deep need for rent bank services and being able to receive these applications translates into many more renters having access to emergency funding to stabilize their housing,” Cassandra Schwarz, executive director, Kamloops and District Elizabeth Fry Society, said.

The loan program will enable tenants who are in hardship the opportunity to clear off their arrears of up to $3,500 and repay the rent bank on affordable monthly terms of up to three years, Schwarz told The Northern View, on Nov. 23.

Prior to the new centralized system, which will service 15 more regions, including the North Coast, there were just seven rent banks in the Vancouver area since 2012.

As more partnerships are made with managing service agencies, localized delivery will support additional wrap-around services, such as financial literacy and budgeting.

“Our rent bank worker works with everybody individually and does try to find different supports — maybe there’s local funding that they can get in addition to this,” Schwarz explained. “… And we look at how we can support [clients] and link them to different services.

We really try to help put a plan in place, so the financial crisis that caused them to have to access rent bank means that won’t happen again.”

By centralizing the emergency funding services, 100 per cent of the province will be covered.

“We’re just supporting the BC Rent Bank and ensuring there are Rent Bank services across the entire province. We’re just helping out in these communities that don’t have local rent banks as of yet. And our role is to offer the services and to work with a local organization to take on their rent bank services,” Schwarz said.

“It means residents in Prince Rupert, [Terrace and Kitimat] will now have access to rent bank services.”

For Prince Rupert and North Coast municipalities, down the road, it also means finding a service manager and provider so local rent bank services can be established in each community.

For the time being, until a local manager can be identified, the centralized system will be run by the Elizabeth Fry Society, who will, in turn, work with BC Rent bank to identify program managers in different communities.

Schwartz said the provincial government has invested $10 million into expanding rent bank services like emergency response for families in crisis and at risk of losing their homes due to unforeseen circumstances.

“… Because we’re all living paycheck to paycheck. This is meant to be like an alternative when you’re hitting that financial crisis [as opposed] to a payday loan with 30 per cent interest,” she said.

“With some of them 30 per cent is generous. There is sometimes 50 per cent, sometimes 75 per cent.”

The program will assist low-to-moderate income earners and tenants must live in or be moving to the community serviced under the program.

Applications are accepted online: www.bcrentbank.ca/apply


K-J Millar | Journalist
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