A cartoon of hands depositing money into a tiny house.

Photo Credit: VanIsle.News Staff

Have You Heard of a Rent Bank?

The next short-term solution to keeping people housed

A valuable service or the first step towards dystopia?

In BC, we’re all trying to adapt to rising housing prices.

Should we be so ready to accept the changing market? Well, that’s up for debate.

But regardless, people are coming up with all kinds of short-term solutions to help people keep their housing when they can’t afford it.

Enter: “Rent Banks.”

They give temporary financial support to folks who can’t make their rent in a crisis. Like, maybe they got laid off or got diagnosed with an illness.

Picture a mini mortgage minus the interest.

If you can’t make rent for a month, you can take out a loan for it from the rent bank, and slowly pay it off over a maximum of two years.

Theresa MacDonald is a Rent Bank case manager for Connective Support Society (CSS). “As we all know, life as a renter is becoming more and more tenuous,” she said during a meeting with the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.

“What we want to do is support people so that the people who are housed stay housed.”

During the meeting, the CSS requested $10,000 in funding from the ACRD per year to help provide their services to the region.

Even without the interest, the repayment rate for rent banks is unsurprisingly on the low end.

John Horn is the director of Connective Support Society Nanaimo. “We’re not bankers, and we don’t get the same rate of repayment that a bank might get,” he said. “Our job is not to squeeze people who are in distress. Our job is to support them. So we think a 60 percent repayment rate is pretty good.”

The funding helps to keep up reserves so they can continue to give out loans. They’re requesting the same from every district they operate in.

Horn mentioned that keeping people in their homes is more cost-effective than having to provide for them through shelters or other emergency systems.

So with a rent bank, the community can come together and invest in keeping folks in their homes. That’s cheaper and more compassionate than evicting people.

It’s worth noting that the maximum loan the CSS rent bank will give out is $1,500 for single people or $1,800 for families. In today’s rental market, that might not cover one full month of rent.

“A lot of people who used to rent a house for $1,500 or $1,800 are now trying to find a rental for $3,000, and incomes have not gone up in their situations,” said Port Alberni mayor and ACRD director Sharie Minions.

“Given that change in our community, it’s even more important to keep people in their rentals when they have them.”

Rent banks are one of the better options for people who need some extra help for a month. But they also feel like our society is adjusting to more and more dystopian rent prices.

Regional district Chief Administrative Officer Daniel Sailland said that staff would explore the source of this funding over the next budget period.

For more information about BC Rent Bank services, visit bcrentbank.ca.