B.C. government announces help for people living in poverty, but no eviction ban yet
Published Saturday, March 21, 2020 9:25AM PDT Last Updated Saturday, March 21, 2020 7:13PM PDT
VANCOUVER -- BC Housing and other provincial government staff are working to set up off-site locations in case homeless or other vulnerable people need to be isolated to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
However B.C.'s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Selina Robinson, said British Columbians who rent will have to wait to hear more about a possible ban on evictions or help for people struggling to pay the rent as COVID-19 measures increasingly impact the economy.
On the eviction issue, Robinson said she is working with her colleague, MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, and would have more to say about help for renters and a potential eviction moratorium in the next few days.
"We do know that rent payment is coming up soon, and I want to assure those who are afraid of losing their home because they can't pay the rent, help is on the way," Robinson said, adding that the province needs to first see "how the federal government is responding on the issue and making sure we can backstop appropriately."
Robinson said people who are homeless on the street, those living in homeless encampments, and people living in shelters and private SROs are especially vulnerable to the potential spread of COVID-19.
She said that population has a lack of information about the virus and how it spreads and if those people were to get the virus would be unable to self-isolate to prevent further transmission.
BC Housing is looking at setting up sites where people could be moved to if they need to be isolated. Those sites could include hotels, motels, community centres and temporary modular housing, said Shayne Ramsay, CEO of BC Housing..
BC Housing has already instructed non-profit housing providers to not evict anyone over non-payment at this time.
BC Housing is also setting up Riverview, a former mental health facility in Coquitlam, as a hub to stockpile and distribute cleaning products to housing providers, and to store food. Ramsay said BC Housing will be starting food delivery services to vulnerable people who struggle with food security and live in subsidized housing.
Renters and tenant advocates have been calling for measures to ban evictions as measures to contain COVID-19 increasingly impact residents' wages. Ontario and California have already put in place eviction moratoriums.
At a press conference on Friday, Vancouver's mayor, Kennedy Stewart, called on the province to help renters who are struggling. Earlier this week, the city asked developers to voluntarily halt any planned evictions, a request that only applies to buildings that are being redeveloped.