Renters in the Cowichan Valley who are having trouble paying their rent and other housing needs will soon have access to a local rent bank that provides interest-free loans. (File photo)

Renters in the Cowichan Valley who are having trouble paying their rent and other housing needs will soon have access to a local rent bank that provides interest-free loans. (File photo)

Rent bank to be set up in Cowichan Valley

Rent banks provide interest-free loans for tenants in urgent circumstances

Low to moderate-income renters in the Cowichan Valley who are having trouble paying their rent and other housing needs will soon be eligible to receive some financial assistance.

Due to an extended partnership between BC Rent Bank and the Kamloops and District Elizabeth Fry Society, the Cowichan Valley and 14 other regions in the province will have access to a rent bank for the first time, making B.C. the first province to have established a program that can be accessed by 100 per cent of its renters.

Rent banks provide interest-free loans for tenants in urgent circumstances so they do not lose their housing.

The banks are housing stability and homelessness prevention resources that renters can turn to during unexpected interruptions to income that jeopardize their housing.

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The interest-free loans can be applied to tenants’ rent or essential utilities, or toward the deposit or first month’s rent for tenants who have secured housing but are unable to pay these requirements.

BC Rent Bank, a project of the Vancity Community Foundation, has been partnering with the Kamloops and District Elizabeth Fry Society on an interim basis to centralize rent bank services throughout the province.

This means people in communities that did not previously have access to rent bank loans and services can now access help to stay in stable housing wherever they are in B.C.

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“I’d like to extend my gratitude to the BC Rent Bank and Kamloops and District Elizabeth Fry Society for its work to help people in financial distress in our province,” said David Eby, attorney general and minister responsible for Housing.

“Rent banks are temporary solutions for some people in housing crisis. While they are not the ultimate solution to affordable housing generally, the services rent banks offer are vital to prevent homelessness and must be available to all British Columbians. I’m very proud these essential services are now offered in every part of the province.”

BC Rent Bank, which is supported by a $10-million investment from the provincial government, is now working to secure long-term partners to provide rent bank services in the Cowichan Valley and the 14 other newly covered regions to localize services and support the delivery of other wraparound services to rent bank clients.

In the Cowichan Valley, it’s expected that the Cowichan Housing Association will be the partner to provide the service in the region.

Melissa Giles, project manager at BC Rent Bank, said having rent bank services all across B.C. is a major milestone for the project to achieve considering that two years ago, there were just seven rent bank locations primarily located in the metro Vancouver area.

“Rent banks are much more than lenders,” she said.

“We are very much focused on the whole person — the renter who is experiencing housing insecurity and financial shocks — and we are striving to care for their well-being beginning with stable and safe housing.”

The 14 other regions that now have access to rent bank services are Alberni-Clayoquot, Bulkley-Nechako, Cariboo, Central Coast, Comox, Fraser-Fort George, Kitimat-Stikine, Mount Waddington, Northern Rockies, South Okanagan, Peace River, Qathet, North Coast, Squamish-Lillooet and Strathcona.

To apply for rent bank loans in communities that have the new coverage, tenants must live in or be moving to the community serviced, and should apply online at www.bcrentbank.ca/apply.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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