COVID-19: B.C. making $500 a month available to renters

"We are doing everything we can to make sure that if (people) are sick or self-isolating, or if they have had their hours cut back or they were laid off that they would not be fearful of losing their home", B.C. Premier John Horgan said.

LeadNow, a Canadian citizens advocacy group, also applauded Horgan's eviction freeze, but said the government's $500 rental supplement doesn't go far enough.

Today's measures have been put in place to help renters with low to moderate incomes who are facing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, but do not qualify for existing rental assistance programs. Horgan said he had received 17,000 emails in recent weeks about housing concerns. "We need to give people security and safety in their rental housing", he said.

Any money provided to these renters through the supplement will be paid directly to landlords on the renters' behalf. Community connection is very important during this challenging time, but it must be done safely, either virtually or with physical distance.

The province is also enacting a rent freeze which will prevent landlords from imposing yearly rental increases during the pandemic.

"People are feeling a lot of fear and anxiety and they need to be able to depend on the comfort and stability of home right now".

The BC government has introduced new measures to protect renters and landlords in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Horgan said the rental supplement is meant to support ongoing government support programs including the BC Emergency Benefit for Workers, provincial and federal student loan repayment moratoriums and the recently announced $2,000-per-month federal benefit to Canadians eligible for Employment Insurance (EI). Landlords will be prevented from legally raising rents starting April 1.

"As we work together to fight this pandemic, we can't afford to leave anyone behind", said MLA Chandra Herbert, leader of the Province's Rental Housing Task Force.

While a landlord may not issue a new notice to end tenancy for any reason, the province is making an exception where needed to protect health and safety or to prevent undue damage to property.

The province's Residential Tenancy Branch will implement several additional actions, including adjourning and rescheduling hearings in situations where people need additional time to prepare and extending timelines for filing applications for dispute resolution.

Robinson added that the province is granting landlords the power to regulate the use of multi-purpose and amenity spaces to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The smaller number of court-ordered evictions are up to the courts, which operate independently of government.

It is also giving landlords the ability to restrict access to common areas in buildings, allowing measures like reducing the numbers of people allowed in laundry rooms or closing games rooms, and to bar visitors.

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