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Vancouver about to kick off a rent bank to reduce homelessness

March 21st, 2012 · 8 Comments

Like Surrey, Prince George and Toronto, Vancouver is about to start a small rent bank, kicking in $150,000 of the total cost, with $350,000 coming from Streetohome, the private-sector group working on homelessness, and others.

The bank is aimed at helping prevent homelessness by providing small loans to people to help them get or retain housing.

I’m attaching the report below so those of you unfamiliar with the concept can take a look at how it works, which does NOT include just handing out money to anyone who phones saying “I can’t pay my rent.”

As you’ll see in the report, applicants are assessed and people who’ve been in place a long time and have mostly paid their rent regularly but have run into a crisis are the likely recipients. No one can get more than $1,000 every two years — it’s not a monthly rent supplement.

I discovered this concept when I researched and wrote a series on homelessness and housing for the Toronto Star 12 years ago, as a result of winning an Atkinson Fellowship. Toronto was just starting its rent bank, which helped prevent a young single mother with two kids, who worked as an administrative assistant at a local university, from being evicted.

My research then showed that loan repayment wasn’t always the highest. On the other hand, the $500-$1,000 that was “lost” to clients who didn’t pay back was still considerably cheaper than having the whole family end up in the street.

At that time, Toronto was housing hundreds of homeless families in suburban motels after they’d been evicted or couldn’t find housing after leaving abusive homes or something equally catastrophic.

A lot of agencies have refined this concept over the years, to improve their chances of lending to the people most likely to benefit from one-time help over a bad hump. We’ll see how it goes here.

rent bank report-1





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