People and families facing a financial emergency will have access to better supports to help pay rent and avoid eviction through Harvest Project’s new rent bank.
The North Shore Rent Bank provides short-term, no-interest loans to people at risk of eviction or disconnection of essential utilities because of a temporary shortage of funds. Harvest Project created the program with support from the Province, Vancity Community Foundation’s B.C. Rent Bank program and a private donation.
“We’re bringing tangible and immediate help to North Shore residents in crisis through our rent bank,” said Gary Ansell, executive director, Harvest Project.
“When the threat of becoming homeless is removed, families can better focus on the challenges they face in moving forward to healthier lives. The B.C. government and the others funding our rent bank recognize this reality. Together, we can change lives and make our community better. Harvest Project continues to reach out with programs for those on the North Shore who need a ‘hand up.’ ”
Harvest Project’s rent bank also provides financial coaching to help people pay back their loan and plan for the future. For the last 26 years, Harvest Project has helped people through programs that include one-to-one coaching and counselling, monthly grocery support, clothing programs and additional services tailored to meet specific needs.
“Eviction is a very real fear for many families and individuals on the North Shore who are living paycheque to paycheque because of the high cost of living,” said Bowinn Ma, MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale. “Rent banks won’t magically solve our affordability crisis, but having one available in our community can mean the difference between staying housed and becoming homeless for someone who finds themselves a few dollars short when rent is due.”
Harvest Project is one of the first nine organizations throughout the province that have received funding through a $10-million government grant to the Vancity Community Foundation. Since June 2019, Vancity Community Foundation has distributed over $240,000 from this grant to existing rent banks and will provide resources and funding for organizations and communities that are interested in creating a new rent bank. Vancity Community Foundation launched a website in October as a resource for people in search of information about rent banks in their community: BCRentBank.ca
“Rent banks are important for reducing poverty because without a stable housing situation, it’s almost impossible for people to focus on things like health, education or work,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Through our funding to Vancity Community Foundation, we are able to ensure that local organizations with strong knowledge and experience in local issues have the support they need to help people in their communities.”
TogetherBC, the Province’s first poverty reduction strategy, was released earlier this year. It outlines programs and policies across government that will lift people out of poverty — and help them stay there — by removing barriers, creating social inclusion and continuing to focus on reconciliation. Supporting the development of a provincewide system of rent banks is part of the Province’s commitment to creating a stronger foundation of services for people in B.C.
Addressing poverty and homelessness are shared priorities between government and the BC Green Party caucus and are part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.
Since June 2019, B.C. rent banks have given over 100 emergency loans, helping 250 people maintain their housing.
Nine existing rent banks in B.C. that benefited from the provincial grant, located in Kamloops, Prince George, the Fraser Valley, Surrey, New Westminster, Richmond, Vancouver, North Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast.