A group representing landlords in B.C. is calling on the province to increase its COVID-19 rental supplement, as well as loosen the program’s eligibility requirements, which they say is leaving many renters behind.
In March, the province unveiled its rental supplement program as thousands of renters worried about paying their monthly bills due to COVID-19’s strain on the economy. The fund, which provides $300 to $500 is in addition to the $1,000 B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers.
To be eligible, renters must meet all of the following criteria:
- Be receiving or be eligible for Employment Insurance, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit or experiencing a 25 per cent reduction in monthly employment income as a result of COVID-19.
- Have a 2019 household income of less than $74,150 for those with no dependents and $113,040 for those with dependents.
- Be paying more than 30 per cent of current (reduced) gross monthly income towards rent.
But LandlordBC argues that the current amount of the supplement doesn’t meet the high rental costs in most major cities in the province. Instead, the association wants to see the benefit increase to $750 per month for renters with no dependents, and $1,000 per month for those with dependents.
“The current benefit amount is inadequate for a vast majority of renters relative to the monthly rent they are responsible for and, furthermore, the selection criteria is in our view leaving many renters behind,” the association said in a news release on Tuesday (April 28).
“The good news is that there’s time to fix this for May 1 when we are predicting a significant spike in the number of renters unable to pay their rent.”
Landlord BC also wants provincial officials to remove the income requirements and to extend this enhanced benefit through August 2020.
According to the Canadian Rental Housing Index, a significant proportion of renters are spending 30 per cent to 50 per cent of their household income on rent and utilities, especially in major urban centres. In Vancouver, 44 per cent of renter households are spending 30 per cent of their income on rent and utilities, and 23 per cent are spending more than 50 per cent of their income on housing.
The B.C. government has also placed a moratorium on evictions during the pandemic, unless issues of safety are involved.
In an emailed statement, the province said officials are continuing to monitor the impacts from COVID-19, including how long the pandemic lasts.
“People are encouraged to apply for all of the programs they’re eligible for,” the statement reads.
Had the federal government launched a rent supplement program, Landlord BC continued, “the rental housing ecosystem would have largely continued functioning normally.”
The Trudeau government has left renter issues to the individual provinces, instead focusing on wider-reaching emergency funds.