Dear Dr. Henry, and Ministers Dix & Robinson:
On Saturday, November 7th, renters anxiously gathered at their homes to listen to your rare weekend address to the province on the COVID-19 pandemic. What we heard, like everyone else listening, was grim. This province has clearly reached a tipping point after surpassing 500 new infections in a single day. We understand the difficulty in the choice you made to effectively reinstate much of the original lockdown rules in the Vancouver Coastal Health & Fraser Health regions. We applaud your decision to attempt to flatten the curve at this critical time, and intend to encourage all of our members to follow your health orders diligently.
However, noticeably absent from this announcement has been any mention of a reinstatement of a total eviction ban. We are writing to express our extreme concern about the lack of adequate protections for tenants during this time, and to urge you to advocate for the reimplementation of this ban for the duration of the health orders, as well as the remainder of the winter under COVID-19. At a time when tenants are being asked to shelter in place to help flatten the curve, the provincial government must step up to ensure that we can effectively do so without worry of eviction. Evictions inherently prevent sheltering-in-place and increase the indoor contacts that people will have as they attempt to find new, often temporary shelter. A ban is urgently needed, as 10-day evictions initiated at the start of November will begin taking effect this week.
In March, Premier Horgan stated that nobody would lose their homes as a result of COVID-19. Though some protections were put in place, this promise was unfortunately not fulfilled. Due to the province’s choice to greenlight evictions for nonpayment this fall, many tenants have been evicted, largely because of lost or disrupted employment, inadequate supports, and desires by landlords to increase rents. Around 15% of rental households (approximately 90,000 households across BC) did not pay full rent and are shouldering the burden of so-called rent debt. Many of these households have been evicted or are at high risk of eviction due to the rent hikes that have been enforced by the government under its sanctioned repayment plan.
The time has come to demonstrate that the government was serious about its commitment, and to reverse course before it is too late for many of its constituents. As such, we are calling for an immediate reintroduction of a ban on evictions for any reason including the non-payment of rent. Going forward, this ban should also be implemented province-wide over the winter flu season in order to pre-emptively reduce transmission risk in other regions before they go the way of the lower mainland.
BC residents deserve a stable winter where they can shelter not only in one place, but in their own place.
Vancouver Tenants Union
The Rent. Strike. Bargain. Campaign