The Portview Landing apartment complex on Burde Street has contributed to the City of Port Alberni’s stock of rental housing. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

The Portview Landing apartment complex on Burde Street has contributed to the City of Port Alberni’s stock of rental housing. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District ponders rent bank program

BC Rent Bank has found a partner in the Connective Support Society Nanaimo

Renters in the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District could benefit from a new rent bank service that is being developed across Vancouver Island.

Last year, BC Rent Bank officially partnered with the Kamloops and District Elizabeth Fry Society on an interim basis to centralize rent bank services throughout the province. The BC Rent Bank said at the time that it was still working to localize the services.

Now, BC Rent Bank may have found a partner in the Connective Support Society Nanaimo.

Formerly known as the Nanaimo Region John Howard Society, the Connective Support Society currently serves the City of Nanaimo and Regional District of Nanaimo, but their goal is to provide an Island-based rent bank service. They are now seeking support from various regional districts and municipalities across the Island.

Members of the Connective Support Society attended the inaugural meeting of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) board on Wednesday, Nov. 9 to explain what it is they actually do.

A rent bank is designed to offer temporary financial support for renters who are unable to make their rent in a crisis—for example, health issues or sudden layoffs. This is done through an interest-free loan, to a maximum of $1,500 for single people or $1,800 for families, repayable over a 24-month period.

“As we all know, life as a renter is becoming more and more tenuous,” said Theresa MacDonald, Rent Bank case manager for Connective Support Society. “What we want to do is support people so that the people who are housed stay housed.”

Keeping people in their current accommodations, noted John Horn, director of Connective Support Society Nanaimo, is more cost-effective than having them show up in various shelter systems or emergency systems.

Horn said the society’s current caseload is about 80 active rent bank loans, in varying amounts. The average rate of repayment ranges from 60 to 70 percent.

“We’re not bankers and we don’t get the same rate of repayment that a bank might get,” said Horn. “Our job is not to squeeze people who are in distress, our job is to support them. So we think a 60 percent repayment rate is pretty good.”

Anyone can apply for a loan, said MacDonald, but they are unlikely to be approved if they are in bankruptcy.

“We don’t want to put people more in debt,” said MacDonald. “We’re not the answer for them.”

Connective Support Society Nanaimo requested an annual contribution of $10,000 from the ACRD, and they will be seeking this contribution from each regional district and municipality they approach.

Regional district CAO Daniel Sailland said that staff will have to explore the source of this funding over the next budget period. A short-term option is the ACRD’s Grant-in-Aid program, but the ACRD might explore developing a service in the long-term, said Sailland.

Port Alberni mayor and ACRD director Sharie Minions said that the City of Port Alberni has seen a “drastic” change in its rental market over the past few years.

“A lot of people who used to rent a house for $1,500 or $1,800 are now trying to find a rental for $3,000, and incomes have not gone up in their situations,” said Minions. “Given that change in our community, it’s even more important to keep people in their rentals when they have them.”

For more information about BC Rent Bank services, visit www.bcrentbank.ca.

Port Alberni