June 17, 2013 - 5:19 PM
City funding could expand program to more groups
KAMLOOPS – As one of only four rent banks in B.C. the local rent bank, run by Kamloops Elizabeth Fry Society, helps low income families not normally eligible for other assistance.
The rent bank started in January with the support of four local groups and the first loans were handed out in February. While the group has received quite a few calls about getting loans only a limited number of people are eligible because of restrictions put in place due to the limited amount of funding for the program.
Executive director Louise Richards says, “Word is getting out, we have quite a few inquiries about loans on a monthly basis. The group eligible is fairly narrow, we're not able to assist a lot of people through the rent bank. There haven't been a lot of resources focused in that area and this was us looking to try and reach a different group.”
The rent bank provides loans up to $1,000 to cover the cost of rent or utilities and are paid directly to the landlord or utility company. Repayable over two years at a rate of 2 per cent plus prime, the program offers those who are working to pay their rent and avoid being evicted if they come into a tough financial situation. All applicants must go through a meeting with staff to discuss their need for assistance and to ensure their ability to repay the loan.
Those who do not qualify can still get financial literacy help and the group also helps assist with tax returns to make sure people are taking advantage of all the benefits available to them and getting the biggest refund possible.
So far four families have received loans through the Kamloops branch and Richards says they are getting closer to their target of two families per month. They would like to be able to help more families through the program but that will depend on help from others in the community, including the city. She says they will be keeping a close eye on what the city decides to do tomorrow at a council workshop where affordable housing is one of the four main topics.
Among the topics up for council discussion is an option to contribute to the rent bank through the Affordable Housing Reserve Fund, which would allow the society to offer loans to a broader group of applicants.
The other rent banks in the province are located in Vancouver, Surrey and the Fraser Valley. One in Prince George recently closed due to lack of funding. In Ontario a rent bank program is run at the provincial level.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013