Tents and other items scatter a City of Parksville lot on the Corner of Jensen Avenue and Craig Street. (Black Press Media files)

Help on way for renters amid COVID-19, B.C.’s housing minister says

More details to help renters expected from B.C. government on Monday

B.C.’s Housing Minister says that help is on the way for those worrying about their rent because of widespread layoffs due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

On Saturday, March 21, B.C. announced a moratorium on evictions for non-payment of rent in BC Housing-funded buildings and said it will be streamlining the application for rent reduction in response to the impact COVID-19 is having on the most vulnerable.

“While all of us are feeling the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, there is no doubt that our most vulnerable populations including the homeless and the working poor are disproportionately affected,” Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, said during a news conference with Housing Minister Selina Robinson on Saturday, March 21.

People experiencing homelessness often have higher rates of health concerns, and as a result could be at greater risk if exposed to COVID-19, the province said. For that reason, enhanced screening and cleaning protocols have been implemented at residential facilities to reduce the potential that this virus can spread within the building and beyond.

Robinson announced a number of sweeping measured to protect those who are street-entrenched or nearing homelessness.

Initial actions include a ban on evictions for non-payment of rent in BC Housing-funded buildings, the procurement of additional sites to support the possibility of isolation for street-entrenched people who test positive for COVID-19 and ensuring service providers can pay their staff and other operating costs.

Provincial officials also said it is in the process of gathering critical supplies for frontline workers, including gloves and cleaning products.

The province has also rolled out a new vulnerable population working group, it said, which will identify, assess and address the immediate challenges faced in particular by five groups: people living on the street, people experiencing homelessness living in encampments, shelter residents, tenants of private SROs and tenants in social and supportive housing buildings.

As for the rest of renters in B.C., many of whom live paycheck to paycheck, Robinson ensured that support will be coming.

“I know that many people are worried about how they are going to make ends meet, put food on the table, and pay rent,” she said, adding the ministry is working with the finance minister to create a package for those facing financial impacts from the novel coronavirus.

Many of the details around how the province will be financially supporting British Columbians during the pandemic are expected to be announced on Monday.

“No one should lose their home as a result of this pandemic,” Robinson added.

READ MORE: Trudeau promises $82B in economic supports in COVID-19 fight

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