COVID-19 tenant relief: Metro Vancouver freezes rent increases in regional public housing properties

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      There’s relief for tenants in housing properties owned and operated by the Metro Vancouver regional government.

      In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, annual rent increases have been frozen effective April 1, 2020.

      The measure is cited in a report to Metro Vancouver’s housing committee by Heather McNell, general manager of regional planning and housing services.

      The committee, which is chaired by Burnaby mayor Mike Hurley, meets on Wednesday (April 29).

      “Metro Vancouver Housing recognizes that tenants may experience financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19,” McNell wrote in her report.

      McNell was referring to the Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation, one of four entities comprising the regional government.

      The MVHC owns and operates 49 housing complexes in in 11 municipalities across the Lower Mainland.

      These public housing properties are found in Vancouver, Burnaby, Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, Port Moody, Delta, Richmond, Maple Ridge, Surrey, New Westminster, and North Vancouver.

      These housing sites are rented out at geared-to-income and below market rates.

      More than 9,000 people live in Metro Vancouver properties.

      McNell noted in her report that managers and staff are “receiving a high volume of calls from financially distressed tenants”.

      “Staff have worked with tenants to inform tenants about federal, provincial and other agency funding programs and arrange rent deferral payments with tenants whose incomes have been impacted,” McNell stated.

      McNell also stated that new guidelines and criteria are being developed for payment plans.

      Also, “rent deferral criteria is being updated”.

      In her report, McNell also mentioned that “eviction notices relating to COVID-19 will not be issued or enforced, except for circumstances where it may be needed to protect health and safety of staff or tenants”.

      According to McNell, this measure is in line with the B.C. province’s policy of not allowing common evictions during the pandemic.