Vancouver rent bank approved by city council
A Vancouver rent bank is expected to be up and running by August, following approval of the initiative by council today (March 28).
The city will invest $148,800 over the next three years on the rent bank, which will be matched by over $500,000 in funding from community partners, including Streetohome Foundation, the Vancouver Foundation, the VanCity Community Foundation, and the Network of Inner City Community Services (NICCS), which is administering the program.
The project is expected to provide over 540 small loans in its first three years, and is aimed at low and middle-income singles, couples and families who are in “imminent danger” of losing their housing, according to city staff.
“Rent banks are for when a disaster happens, so the mum has to take time off work, the kid gets sick... and there’s no other program that will help them out,” Vision Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang told the Straight. “So those are the best cases that this works well for.”
To qualify, applicants will be expected to be able to repay the loan. The average one-time loan to eligible applicants is expected to be $835, with an estimated repayment period of one to two years.
Kate Hodgson, the executive director of the Network of Inner City Community Services, said the organization views the rent bank as being part of the continuum of housing options in the city.
“I don’t think the Vancouver rent bank’s going to solve all the problems for all of our high-needs individuals,” she told city council, noting that young people facing homelessness may be more at risk and not able to repay a loan.
“We’re hoping that with the Vancouver rent bank we can also track those people who are not eligible [and] in terms of crisis response, have a good network of people that can help ensure they’re housed, connect them to other services, and advocate for them,” she said.
Spencer Chandra Herbert, the MLA for Vancouver-West End, said the initiative will go “a good way” to preventing homelessness in Vancouver.
“Obviously there’s lots of other steps that need to be taken, other changes we should make to the Residential Tenancy Act to deal with other rental problems that still exist, but this is a good part of that wider step we need to take to prevent homelessness,” he told the Straight.
Herbert said he began proposing a rent bank after he grew tired of seeing constituents losing their homes, which he believes could have been avoided with “just a little bit of help”.
Herbert noted he intends to ask the provincial government to invest in rent bank programs across the province.
“I don’t see why the provincial government, which claims it wants to stop homelessness, has not looked at this homelessness prevention tool,” he said.
The rent bank model is based on similar initiatives in Toronto, Prince George, and Surrey.