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Petition to pause rent, mortgage payments due to COVID-19 signed by 74,000
Published Monday, March 16, 2020 4:15PM PDT Last Updated Monday, March 16, 2020 8:27PM PDT
VANCOUVER -- A petition calling for rent and mortgage payment relief for Canadians struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic has been signed by tens of thousands of people.
The Change.org petition argues the federal government should step in and help renters and homeowners suffering from the pandemic's growing impact on the economy. Some employees have already been laid off, while others face the possibility of being asked to stay home for weeks without pay from their employer.
"Cancelling rent and mortgage payments for the duration of the Covid-19 virus pandemic would relieve financial pressure, allow citizens to stay home from work without the added concern of losing their housing," the petition reads.
As of noon on Monday, more than 74,000 people had signed their name to the document.
Over the weekend, the B.C. Government Employees' Union issued a similar call, arguing that rent and mortgage relief would "make sure working people can afford to do the right thing.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said it will support lenders in letting people affected by COVID-19 defer their mortgage payments for up to six months, but CEO Evan Siddall told CTV News there aren't currently any similar plans for renters.
LandlordBC, which represents about 3,300 owners and managers of rental properties in the province, said no one should have to worry about losing their home during the COVID-19 pandemic, and argued it’s “essential” for the government to provide financial support to renters impacted by the virus.
But CEO David Hutniak argued simply suspending rent would be the wrong approach.
“Our thoughts go out to the people who have been and will be affected by this unprecedented event,” Hutniak told CTV News in an emailed statement.
“However, it is generally not understood that a significant majority of landlords in B.C. are small business people, mom and pop operators, with a few rental units. The suggestion that rents should be suspended fails to recognize the significant risks and costs associated with the provision of rental housing in B.C., and the extreme financial consequences these landlords would endure if that were to happen.”
There are already some measures in place intended to help people through the pandemic, including employment insurance sickness benefits. The federal government has also waived the one-week waiting period for EI for people who are in quarantine.
EI sickness benefits cover people for up to 15 weeks, but only those who have accumulated 600 "insured work hours" in the year leading up to their claim are eligible. That amounts to 20 weeks of work at 30 hours a week, according to the government.