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Preventing homelessness one rent payment at a time in Kamloops, Okanagan

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The B.C. Rent Bank is helping prevent hundreds of B.C. residents, including some in Kamloops and the Okanagan, from being evicted each year.

It could do more if word spread about the fact that such a bank exists and how easy it is to access, Melissa Giles, project lead for B.C. Rent Bank, told

READ MORE: Kamloops organization partners with B.C. Rent Bank to offer interest free loans

And, while it’s costing $2-$3 million a year to finance, it’s saving many times that by keeping people housed.

“What we know, through our research, is that when a tenant faces eviction, they’re looking at costs in the $3,000 range and for landlords that can go up to $9,000,” she said. “And we know there’s a cost beyond that as well to the community as other social supports need to be drawn on, whether that’s health care or other things."

Given that the bank gave interest free loans to about 1,500 B.C. residents last year, that means renters saved in the neighbourhood of $4.5 million and the landlords another $13.5 million.

The Rent Bank just released the results of a user survey Aug. 17 that showed that six months after getting a loan between April 1 and June 30, 2021, 94% were still in their rented homes or had moved on to better places.

“It’s in everyone’s good interest to have people stay housed and to prevent evictions from the outset,” Giles said. “If we’re seeing the majority of folks housed for six months and, even into the future, we know that’s a good investment.”

The one-time interest free loans are made to low and middle-income people who are over the age of 19, are not more than two months behind in their rent and can show they can pay back the money.

The loans are for a minimum of one month’s rent and a maximum of $3,500. Repayment plans can stretch up to 36 months.

Even so, about 30% default on the payments.

“We know people who apply to rent banks are anywhere from somebody young of age who has a roommate move out and they’re stuck paying rent, to a single parent who doesn’t have full benefits at work and their child gets sick,” Giles said. “There are people who have to make a hard decision between paying for a car repair or their rent that month. We, unfortunately also see people up into their senior citizen years. There could be a breakdown in paperwork and they have a delay in their Old Age Security. It could be increased health costs or unexpected costs for someone on a fixed income.”

One survey respondent was a 70-year-old woman who was employed but had to go into caretaker mode when her husband had a stroke.

Another man in his 60s was diagnosed with cancer and a heart condition so he had to travel to Vancouver for treatment but knew he would be able to return to work.

Educational status is not a factor.

Forty per cent of those answering the survey had post-secondary degrees while another 36% had some post-secondary education or trades/technical/vocational training.

Only 24% had high school education or less.

The B.C. Rent Bank was created through the Vancity Community Foundation with provincial funding.

By the end of 2021, it had expanded to the point where it is accessible online from anywhere in the province.

There are banks run by the Canadian Mental Health Association in the Central and North Okanagan and by the Elizabeth Fry Society in Kamloops.

READ MORE: Central Okanagan rent bank to open next month

There’s no rent bank in the South Okanagan but residents there can apply and talk to a case manager through a centralized bank.

The B.C. Rent Bank also provides “wrap around” services like debt consolidation counselling and assisting with negotiations with landlords.

To apply and to find the full list of where your local rent bank is, go here.

The survey found that 91% of those who responded credited the loan with keeping them housed and 61% said they faced homelessness without the service.

It was sent to 238 people who received loans during that three-month period in 2021, with 41% responding.

Since those who responded were self-selected rather than random, there may be a “non-response bias” the report from the survey says.

That means the results are not statistically valid for all rent bank recipients but still provide insight into how the service can be valuable to many.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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