For Immediate Release
Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories
June 25, 2020
Vancouver, B.C. – Tenants’ rights advocates and legal aid professionals in B.C., the Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) along with the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC), are concerned that mass evictions and homelessness may result from the provincial government’s new order to lift portions of a moratorium on evictions, beginning now. Lifting of these restrictions means tenants can again be evicted for landlord or purchaser use of the home and for “cause.”
They are calling on the government to protect renters from being evicted from their homes now and during future phases of the pandemic by:
- Reinstating the emergency moratorium on all evictions and previous eviction orders, originally put in place on March 30 to support renters during COVID-19 restrictions.
- Mandating a Rent Forgiveness Period to help tenants who are in arrears on their rent during the Emergency Order and beyond.
- Creating a Rent Arrears Forgiveness Program to assist small landlords and non-market housing providers and protect tenants from related eviction.
TRAC’s and CLAS’ experts in tenants’ rights say many tenants, and homeowners, are still struggling to meet financial obligations due to COVID-19-related layoffs and restrictions. While they support the government’s continued moratorium on evictions due to non-payment of rent, other protections remain critical.
“We feel it is far too premature to remove all these tenant protections while B.C.’s state of emergency continues,” said Danielle Sabelli, CLAS lawyer. “We are in the midst of a global public health emergency, and it is clear that the COVID-19 health crisis and restrictions will be with us for some time. Renters need continued housing security and the ability to follow social distancing and self-isolation measures.”
In a letter to Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson, TRAC and CLAS stated that prior to the pandemic, 21% of renter households in B.C. spent more than half of their earnings on housing. The submission pointed out that for many British Columbians, particularly in Metro Vancouver, housing is not secure and rent is unsustainable even before the current pandemic added catastrophically to the existing affordability crisis.
CLAS and TRAC are extremely concerned about Phase 2, which the Province has indicated will require tenants to settle unpaid rent or face potential eviction. This approach to the next phase will lead to further homelessness and a permanent reduction in affordable rental housing.
TRAC and CLAS have recommended the government mandate a rent arrears forgiveness program for tenants during B.C.’s emergency order and beyond. To reduce the impact on smaller landlords, non-profit landlords, and other non-market housing providers, they recommend the government establish and administer a needs-based rental assistance program for landlords and non-market housing providers.
“Requiring full payment of outstanding rent during this public health emergency means many tenants could lose their housing,” said Zuzana Modrovic, a lawyer with TRAC. “An extended rent forgiveness period and review of the necessary provisions of the Residential Tenancy Act will help those at risk.”
“Tenants should not bear the burden of restoring the rental housing economy, especially when the economy is forecasted to take a significant period of time to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 public health emergency, and it will take even longer for tenants to feel the economic benefits of that recovery themselves,” added Jacqui Mendes, Executive Director of CLAS.
“It is key we address tenant rent arrears through a forgiveness period, coupled with financial support directly for small landlords who demonstrate need,” said Andrew Sakamoto, Executive Director of TRAC. “Safe, secure and affordable housing will play a critical role in the health and economic recovery of British Columbians moving forward.”
Brenda Jones, APR