***For immediate release***
March 26th, 2020
Provincial Government enacts a nearly universal moratorium on evictions but leaves many questions left unanswered
After weeks of inaction, the BC Government today unveiled specific measures for renters and landlords to take effect during the COVID-19 global pandemic. On Monday, Premier John Horgan said some evictions will continue. Today he said almost all evictions will stop. In the days between, thousands of VTU members and supporters, and tenants and organizations all across BC told their stories, signed petitions and called their MLAs for the need to stop evictions. The VTU collected over 1700 calls from concerned renters and organized 200 tenants to call the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson’s office.
“This would not have happened without tenants organizing and speaking out in concern for their safety. This is very close to our demand of a universal moratorium on evictions. Delaying this announcement, however, until 6 days before rent day only added considerable stress to the already stressful lives of tenants,” said Mazdak Gharibnavaz VTU Steering Committee Member. “That being said, we’re concerned about the new powers for landlords that could restrict access to units for visitors, especially vulnerable and COVID-19 sick tenants who will need help getting supplies. These new powers could set a bad precedent”.
The BC Government also announced a “Temporary Rent Supplement” of up to $500 per month, which will go directly to landlords as a bailout. It is unknown if this supplement is per household or per person and how tenants can be guaranteed it will reduce their rent and not be mishandled. Additionally, It is unclear how this supplement would be accessed by those without status or others who may not meet eligibility for EI.
“The patchwork of announced federal and provincial supports will not reach tenants before rent day on April 1st, as acknowledged by the Premier,” said Mariah Gillis VTU Communications Working Group Member. “The process is onerous for many and will be next to impossible for undocumented, non-english speaking and marginalized people without in-person support. Relying on landlords’ good faith as a stop-gap measure is naive, as many tenants tell us their landlords expect business as usual”.
“We know that for many tenants this crisis is not over and in fact may just be beginning,” said David Hendry VTU Steering Committee Member. “Tenants are already choosing between paying rent and buying food. Now is the time for solidarity and asserting our needs to make sure we survive. We are asking tenants who want to engage in mutual aid with their neighbors during the COVID-19 crisis to contact us. Stay in your homes, safely organize your buildings. We won’t go into debt, risk our health or starve our families to pay the rent”.
In the coming days, the VTU will launch an organizing campaign including a Renter’s Toolkit which lays out clear protocols for how to safely organize a building under the COVID-19 crisis and legal implications for being unable to pay rent. We will also continue efforts to lobby provincial and federal governments for robust economic relief for tenants.
Illustration by Helena Krobath