1,117 renters say no evictions, no rent debt

An open letter to Minister Selina Robinson, Premier John Horgan, and MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert:

As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated working people and their incomes. According to analysis by The Toronto Star, 37% of renters across Canada lost their jobs, and another 9% lost hours during this pandemic. The jobs lost have been disproportionately low-paying jobs held by low-income, vulnerable tenants.

According to a CIBC survey in April, 10% of renters in Vancouver didn’t pay any rent, and another 15% only paid partial rent. Many of these tenants have drained their savings and gone further into debt in order to make ends meet during this pandemic. If the eviction ban protections are lifted, tens of thousands of them will face the prospect of losing their homes with no financial safety net left.

Additionally, your government’s refusal to bring in real rent control protections by tying the rent to the unit and not the tenant will mean that the evictions of tens of thousands of low-income tenants will result in the destruction of much of the existing affordable rental stock. The vast majority of the units that have been lived in for years by low-income and vulnerable tenants who paid below-market rents will be transformed into unaffordable market-rate rental units and fuel our housing crisis.

That is why we launched our petition at NoRentDebt.ca. Today the Vancouver Tenants Union and 1,117 supporters and members are calling on the BC Government to make renters whole by:
1. Immediately extending the ban on evictions and rent increases until the end of pandemic
2. Laying out a plan to cancel existing eviction notices and rent debt accrued before and during the pandemic

We strongly reject any proposed solutions that would seek to put the burden of the current rent crisis on the backs of the most vulnerable and working people who have no prospect for continued income in a global economic depression.

Specifically, we reject any and all forms of “rent bank” solutions that would require renters to take on additional loan debt to pay existing arrears. Not only will that transfer the brunt of the crisis to renters, but saddling working people with more debt is detrimental to the economic recovery efforts, as they will not have disposable income to spend in their local communities and economy. This solution does not make moral or economic sense.

According to BC Today, “only about 15 per cent of B.C.’s nearly 600,000 tenant households, according to 2016 census data, have applied for the rental supplement so far”. This means that your government has not spent hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for assisting renters through this crisis. That money should immediately go to canceling the existing and future rent debt accrued during the pandemic.

It is our view that for-profit interests should not be considered against the well being of renters during this pandemic. Housing is a human right, and the BC Government should ensure that all renters affected during Covid-19 are able to stay in their homes without ruining their financial future.

Vancouver Tenants Union