Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories
The Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) is extremely concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable citizens, and on all renters in the province of B.C. Through the Community Law Program funded by the Law Foundation, CLAS represents and provides legal expertise to at-risk renters regarding evictions and other rental fairness matters.
“We would like to see and help government facilitate a complete moratorium on all evictions effective immediately, much like the action taken in Ontario and Quebec and consistent with the renter support the Minister of Finance referenced in Monday’s press conference,” said Jacqui Mendes, Executive Director of CLAS.
Renters make up over 35% of the households in the City of Vancouver, a third of whom spend more than 30% of their income on rent, and this is replicated in most areas of the province. Given the ongoing employment instability and layoffs occurring as a result of COVID-19 orders and voluntary measures, many renters in British Columbia are at risk of losing their housing due to a reduction or complete cessation of income.
CLAS is concerned that the current existing and significant housing affordability crisis could become an emergency for all renters in the province without immediate measures, and we offer our deep expertise to support a swift and effective provincial response. We recognize such a thorough approach will require unprecedented but urgent concerted efforts between various sectors of government.
“We believe that a key component of this would be to ensure renters are free to self-isolate or quarantine without the threat of losing their homes,” said Danielle Sabelli, a Lawyer with CLAS. “If renters are not able to do this, they would be compelled to seek alternative housing or risk homelessness. Moving could necessitate significant contact with others, such as using public transit, viewing rental units, hiring movers, etc., which should be avoided at this time.”
CLAS also recommends that this action will need to do more than prohibit the issuance of all notices to end tenancy and orders of possession, as renters may already be at different stages of the eviction process. Temporarily closing all gaps in the eviction process by halting all orders of possession and writs of possession, along with the enforcement of those writs of possession, will help protect a broader array of renters.
“We believe such protections will not only stabilize housing for renters but support the public in acting responsibly to social-distance, self-isolate, and do what is needed to ‘flatten the curve,’” said Mendes. “Now more than ever, we need to ensure people stay in their homes.”
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Brenda Jones, APR