Rent bank plans to open in New Westminster
By Aaron Guillen, Staff Reporter
In the past year, housing affordability has driven many Vancouverites out of the city. Yet for those who remain in Metro Vancouver, low income is an ongoing issue day in and day out.
With countless BC households living paycheque to paycheque, the absence of a steady income (or too low of an income) is a major concern. Whether it be a single mother struggling to make ends meet, an unexpected illness in the family, or restarting a life after escaping domestic violence, New Westminster MLA Judy Darcy hopes to ease those stresses by providing a rent bank in the local community. A rent bank is a largely Canadian service that provides interest-free loans to low-income households who face eviction due to an unforeseen financial crisis.
Darcy, alongside her constituency office staff, has had her eye on introducing a rent bank in New Westminster since January 2015. Since then, she and her staff have been reaching out to community shareholders, hoping to build a strong base for their endowment fund. Finally, Darcy and her staff have been able to accumulate contributions from Westminster Savings Credit Union, Greater Vancouver Community Credit Union, G&F Financial Group, Coast Capital Credit Union, Community Savings Credit Union, and Vancity, totalling a substantial amount of $35,000.
With the idea of a rent bank finding resonance among locals, city council has agreed to add to the fund an additional $20,000 on a yearly basis for three years to assist with admin and operating costs for the bank.
“Now there will be a process for community agencies to submit or indicate they are interested in running it,” Darcy said to the New Westminster Record.
“The whole idea is to have this embedded in a community agency that already gives supports to people, so that when someone applies for assistance from the rent bank, that community agency is already in a position to say we have these other ways to support you. Whether they are eligible for the rent bank or not, there are other ways that community agency would be able to support them.”
The rent bank is hoping to open in New Westminster soon, following the footsteps of the Sources Rent Bank in Surrey, one of the first of its kind in the mainland region. Two years ago, Patricia Stewart, a single mother of two and student at Douglas College, found a source of assistance in her greatest moment of need. Due to child tax credit taking away a significant portion of welfare for that month, she was immensely grateful for the rent bank’s willingness to lend a hand.
“Sometimes dealing with the housing issue earlier on, and in this case potentially preventing homelessness, can be a much more efficient, compassionate, and effective way of dealing with housing challenges,” stated Mayor Jonathan Cote to the New Westminster Record.