***For immediate release***
July 16th 2020
Today the Government of British Columbia announced that the ban on evictions due to non-payment of rent will be removed on September 1st, paving the way for thousands of the most vulnerable tenants in BC to become targets of evictions by their landlords.
This, in the midst of a pandemic and a global economic depression, means that renters will bear the main brunt of these crises while trying to keep their homes.
“Tenants have been under siege from multiple crises that have made their lives even more precarious, and today the BC Government made the prospect of losing their homes very real” said Mazdak Gharibnavaz, VTU Steering Committee member. “In a pandemic, even one infection caused by evictions is too many. We should fully expect a second wave to hit our province this fall as the ban is being lifted; now is not the time to play with the safety of tenants. Not only does today’s decision not make sense for our public health, it’s an economic disaster for vulnerable tenants”.
The Toronto Star reports that 37% of renters across Canada lost their jobs, and another 9% lost hours during the pandemic. In BC, unemployment has stayed at 13% in June, and youth unemployment remains at a devastating 29.1%. The jobs lost were disproportionately low-paying jobs held by low-income, vulnerable tenants.
According to BC Today, the government introduced the BC Temporary Rental Supplement on March 25th under the assumption that “100 per cent” of rental households would apply for the program. However only about 15% of B.C. renter households have applied as of early June -- in part due to burdensome and stringent eligibility requirements. This suggests that there are still significant funds earmarked and available to help renters.
“Paying off accumulated rent debt during a global economic depression is not feasible for those already living paycheque to paycheque before the pandemic,” said Rocco Trigueros, member of the Steering Committee. “Today’s outrageous announcement means that the BC Government has chosen to place the economic damage of this pandemic squarely on the shoulders of working families. In an economy that is not only uncertain, but crumbling due to loss of business, tourism and jobs in the service industry, they are creating the perfect storm for landlords to carry out multiple evictions for nonpayment in the following months. Without vacancy control, this will encourage unregulated rent increases and gentrification within a legal frame”.
Hundreds of renters have sent letters to Minister Selina Robinson in order to avoid these wrong-headed policies. It’s time for the BC Government to keep its promise to renters, not continue helping landlords evict. They must use any available funds, including unclaimed Temporary Rental Supplement supports, to immediately cancel the rent debt of tenants.
Illustration by Helena Krobath