The VDLC Executive Board welcomes the announcements made on March 25th by the Provincial Government. These announcements included a freeze on rent increases, additional restrictions on landlord access to suites and, perhaps most significantly, a moratorium on evictions.
These are important first steps to ensuring housing security for people in our province during this pandemic. However, instead of the moratorium on rent, which was called for by several advocacy groups, a rent subsidy of up to $500 will be issued to landlords and can then be applied for by the tenant.
It is our view that this does not go far enough. Many tenants will find themselves unable to pay their rent during this crisis, even if they receive the subsidy in full. This is particularly true given that this pandemic is occurring in the context of a pre-existing housing and affordability crisis. While those tenants cannot legally be evicted under the new protections announced by government, they could see themselves falling into mounting rent debt which will place them in an even more precarious financial position and/or lead to potential evictions post-pandemic.
Similarly, we still need action by the Federal Government to place a moratorium on mortgages during this time. Many homeowners will simply not be able to make their mortgage payments due to loss of income related to this pandemic. The current situation of deferred payments is not enough. Financial institutions are allowing the deferral of payments, but often in a way that can substantially increase interest. The additional costs incurred as a result of this may be difficult or impossible to make up for many homeowners. A moratorium would also protect homeowners who rely on income from tenants which would not be forthcoming in the event of a rent moratorium.
In both the case of tenants and homeowners, without additional action people will be placed in situations of housing precarity and/or financially debilitating debt. Housing is a human right and must be protected during this crisis. We also need swift action by all levels of government to ensure safe housing the homeless and protect against the spread of COVID-19 amongst highly vulnerable communities.
We are therefore calling for a rent and mortgage moratorium for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, and for safe and secure housing for all.
More information on how a rent and mortgage moratorium would work in available from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives HERE.
You can sign a petition by LeadNow and BCGEU calling for a rent and mortgage moratorium HERE.