Vancouver Rent Bank boasts a year of preventing evictions

Vancouver Rent Bank might be your best friend in this tough town.

MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, Amanda Pollicino, Kevin McCort, Kate Hodgson, Mayor Gregor Robertson, Rob Turnbull

Vancouver Rent Bank: Looking good at one year old

The Vancouver Rent Bank (VRB) has completed its first year of operation, and presented its results today at Vancouver Community College for students, media, and clients. The VRB is celebrating its successes as well as acknowledging the obstacles it still faces.

The Rent Bank provides temporary interest-free loans to Vancouverites in danger of eviction, or who need to move due to unsafe housing conditions. The Rent Bank’s loans cover past-due rent or utility bills; or the security deposit for a safer place to hang your hat. New York City has run a similar program for the last nine years.

The Vancouver Rent Bank is a project of the Network of Inner City Communication Services Society (NICCSS, pronounced "nices"). In effect, the VRB can prevent that inciting incident of homelessness: actually losing your home and swelling the ranks of the invisible homeless.

Big impact

Rent Bank Managing Director Amanda Pollicino told the assembled crowd that 137 loans have been given out, totaling over $120,000. This money helped 228 people avoid eviction. That number includes 39 children.

Amanda Pollicino, VRB Managing Director

Not bad for a full-time staff of two and a rotating team of volunteers. Pollicino said that the VRB has commanded over 1,500 volunteer hours so far.

Good news, everyone

Mayor Gregor Robertson said that this was "a remarkable achievement right out of the gate." Robertson touted the Rent Bank as "a good-news story", especially during Homelessness Action Week: "There's always a lot of hand-wringing and concern this time of year as the weather starts to change."

The Rent Bank program is only one tool to keep people out of shelters and off the streets, though, and homelessness is a remarkably complicated issue.

Of course, we as a city have additional anti-homelessness weapons in our arsenal. Robertson also mentioned the rental standards database and the Rental 100 Program; though whether or not rental housing constitutes true affordable housing is still debatable: affordable compared to what?

Vancouver Rent Bank tackles an aspect of our city's affordable-housing crisis not by changing the game but by helping you play it. These are, as Robertson said, "smaller investments that prevent larger costs to society" caused by homelessness.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson

There but for the grace of EI go I

Pollicino said that the two primary factors driving Vancouverites towards the Rent Bank were illness or sudden job loss.

Let's say you're sick and your insurance doesn't cover your medicine. Or you lost your job and you have to wait (at least) eight weeks for your Employment Insurance to kick in. You apply to the Rent Bank program for a quick loan to keep the wolves at bay.

Where does the Rent Bank's money come from?

Streetohome, using money donated by the Radcliffe Foundation, provides the loan money distributed by the VRB program. The City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Foundation fund the VRB's operating costs, which have reached $100,000, according to the 2014 budget outlook presentation delivered on October 9 in the City Council Chambers.

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