Vancouver’s first rent bank for people in short-term financial difficulty officially launched in the middle of Homelessness Action Week last Wednesday, but two interest-free loans were doled out the week before.
In one case, roommates fell behind on rent. They were on social assistance, but one found a job and there was a gap between when social assistance ended and their first paycheque arrived.
In the second case, a mother and daughter were living in a shelter after being evicted.
The rent bank provided a loan for the first month’s rent and a security deposit.
“She was able to find affordable housing in her price range and they’ve moved in,” explained Amanda Pollicino, managing director of the Vancouver Rent Bank, which is being administered by The Network of Inner City Community Services Society (NICCSS).
The two loans totaled $2,575, and the rent bank also helped two other households negotiate payment plans with their landlords.
The City of Vancouver is contributing just under $50,000 per year for three years towards operating costs, while the Vancouver Foundation is kicking in $30,000 a year for the first three years.
The Vancouver-based Radcliffe Foundation, established by philanthropist Frank Giustra in 1997, contributed $366,000 to the Streetohome Foundation to cover the loan portion of the rent bank—$150,000 of that is budgeted for the first year.
It’s expected the majority of loans will be paid back. Other rent banks in B.C.—there’s one in Surrey and another in Prince George—report an average of 70 per cent are repaid.
Pollicino anticipates between 150 and 200 loans will be issued each year in Vancouver.
“The number of people we’ll actually deal with will probably be far greater than that because those are the people who actually make it through the application process and we give loans to,” she said, explaining it won’t be appropriate to provide loans to some applicants such as those living in unaffordable housing based on their income.
“In many cases, providing a loan is not going to solve the entire problem. So it’s us connecting them with the right resources because we don’t want [the money] to go to waste.”
Individuals will only be considered for loans once every two years.
“We don’t have unlimited funds. We’re going to be strategic about it. We will not issue a loan if they’re going to lose their housing. It’s not worth it for us because we don’t have enough funds, but we are here to try to stabilize housing,” Pollicino said. “…So we will work with them to try and work it out.”
Pollicino is confident the rent bank program will stabilize housing situations for many low-income people in the city.
“We have a lot of resources available to us outside of our organization. Our funding partners have been excellent. Besides offering us funding, they’re also available when we need other things. We’re also working with Vancity Credit Union and the Community Foundation and UBC department of economics, so we have a lot of expertise and big organizations behind us, which is really great and which will make this program successful.”