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Vancouver Rent Bank saves residents from losing their homes

October 15 2013

"The Rent Bank has proven to be a successful tool for helping low-income renters keep their homes in crisis situations," said Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Condos in Vancouver

In its first year of operation, the Vancouver Rent Bank (VRB) program has prevented evictions for over 200 people through the use of small, interest-free loans to help them through a temporary financial crisis.

Since October 2012, the VRB has approved 137 interest-free loans, helping 228 people – including 39 children – avoid losing their homes due to eviction. The loans are granted to people in imminent danger of losing their housing, and are interest free for up to 24 months.

About the Vancouver Rent Bank

The Vancouver Rent Bank is a multi-partner initiative involving the City of Vancouver, Streetohome Foundation, Vancouver Foundation, UBC, and the Vancity Community Foundation. The program is administered by the Network of Inner City Community Services Society (NICCSS).

“The Rent Bank has proven to be a successful tool for helping low-income renters keep their homes in crisis situations,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “It is gratifying to see that, one year later, the Rent Bank is making a real difference in people’s lives, preventing homelessness, and delivering housing stability for people who need it. This is a key part of our Affordable Housing and Homelessness Plan and I want to thank all of our partners who have helped make it so effective.”

Findings and achievements from the first year of operation

In its first year of operation, the Rent Bank had an estimated 1,200 telephone inquiries for loans and over 500 pre-assessments. This led to outreach and advocacy that secured housing and avoided the need for loans. The average loan is $906 and is achieving a repayment rate of over 90%.

“Over the last year, the Vancouver Rent Bank has proven to be a cost-effective solution to keep people securely housed in their own homes,” said Frank Giustra, Radcliffe Foundation President and Streetohome Foundation Board Member. “We can all be proud of a project that, in just one year, has prevented over 200 people from becoming homeless.”

The primary reason cited for a loan request was underemployment, followed by family crisis and job loss. The majority of loan recipients were men over the age of 45 and 87% of recipients were from single income homes.

Although the Vancouver Rent Bank has been effective in helping people avoid eviction, the range of people seeking loans shows that there is a growing need to support low-income renters, says the NICCSS. “People from all walks of life are turning to the Rent Bank in times of crisis,” said NICCSS spokesperson Amanda Pollicino. “Rent banks are an effective way to help people keep their housing and avoid homelessness, but the Rent Bank is just one part of the solution. We’re seeing increasing demand for supports for renters, particularly for single income households which often do not qualify for provincial rental subsidy programs.”

In 2012, Vancouver City Council approved a contribution of $148,000 over three years to support the operating costs of the rent bank. Streetohome Foundation will provide loan capital over the three years, made possible through a $365,800 donation from The Radcliffe Foundation. The Vancouver Foundation is contributing $90,000 towards operating costs. These financial contributions are matched by in-kind support from the Network of Inner City Community Services, VanCity, and UBC. The program is similar to existing rent banks in Toronto, the Fraser Valley, Kamloops, and Surrey.

“Building pathways to home is one of the fundamental tenets of our work at Vancouver Foundation in homelessness prevention,” said Kevin McCort, President and CEO of Vancouver Foundation. “We are encouraged that, in its first year, the Vancouver Rent Bank is a proven model of success, both as an important pathway to housing stability and contributing to the quality of life for over 200 Vancouver residents.”

In addition to providing loans for eligible clients, the VRB works with clients providing advocacy and referral services to increase housing stability, as well as providing financial literacy training.

Housing in Vancouver

Learn more about the Vancouver Rent Bank

Financial aid

The Vancouver Rent Bank provides one-time interest-free loans to low-income people in temporary financial crisis. Learn more here.