***For immediate release***
August 24, 2020
With the province-wide ban on evictions for non-payment of rent set to end Sept 1st, the Vancouver Tenants Union (VTU) surveyed 400 renters about their rent situations and their overall well-being. The results were alarming.
A significant number of all respondents (63%) reported experiencing increased mental health issues (high anxiety, insomnia, depression) related specifically to their housing precarity. Despite government programs like Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the B.C. Temporary Rent Supplement (TRS), 32% of respondents reported having to borrow, use credit, or dip into savings in order to maintain rent payments. And, although there was no specific question about food in the survey, 28% of written responses described sacrificing basic nutrition or going hungry in order to maintain rent payments.
“Premier Horgan stated in March that nobody would lose their home as a result of COVID-19,” said VTU volunteer Mazdak Gharibnavaz. “But rents are so high that, even with financial supports, renters are sacrificing the basics. going hungry, and those who have fallen behind are still at risk of eviction because the protections are being withdrawn.”
When the provincial moratorium on evictions began in March, the province instructed renters to keep paying rent, if they could afford to. The VTU’s survey reveals that a significant number of tenants are suffering immensely - economically, mentally, and physically - so that landlords can continue to be paid in full.
The province has reported that 15% of renters have accrued some level of rent debt, and has created a framework for repayment to landlords in installments, starting in October. Survey respondents who reported falling into rent debt identified themselves as workers from across the income spectrum in sectors hardest hit by the pandemic - tourism, hospitality, small business, and the film industry. 69% of those in rent debt do not believe they can afford to begin paying down their debt by October. 32% of all respondents believed that they were at risk of falling into rent debt once government supports like CERB and the TRS end.
The VTU has been campaigning since March to keep B.C.’s eviction ban and rent freeze in place for the remainder of the pandemic. The VTU has also called on the province to forgive accrued rent debts in order to protect tenants who have been hardest hit and to avoid an evictions crisis.