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Not even $100 to spare: renters worry as months’ end nears amid coronavirus pandemic

Last Updated Mar 25, 2020 at 7:00 am PDT

(Riley Phillips for NEWS 1130)

Nearly half of Canadian households report wages or job loss

Federal EI not enough to cover most Vancouver rents

B.C. renters cross fingers and hope for relief amid COVID-19

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Nearly half of Canadian households report a loss in wages or work as the coronavirus continues to ravage the global economy, according to a new Angus Reid poll.

So far a number of announcements about support have been made but little relief has actually made it into people’s pockets, as renters wait to hear what the province will offer Wednesday.

The new survey found people who have been hit the hardest by layoffs and mass shutdowns because of the pandemic will also be the least likely to absorb the financial losses.

(Courtesy the Angus Reid Institute)

Claire Lomas is a self-employed dog walker who rents a condo in Vancouver’s West End. She is uncertain what the federal benefits package promised for April will bring, as she doesn’t qualify for regular employment insurance.

“I would like to hear blanket policies that are going to cover everybody, at least in the short term, so that people know they’re not going to lose their home, we can self-isolate and we can get this under control,” she says.

Even if she does get some relief from the feds, Lomas, who is also an active housing advocate at City Hall, says those relying on EI to get by are going to struggle.

“Especially for here in Vancouver, they’re not going to be sufficient; they cap out at $1,800 a month. If you look at most people’s rents in the city that’s gonna take most of the money there.”

The Angus Reid poll also found about 44 per cent of people have lost work as a result of the virus and at one-third are worried about paying their rent or bills in a few days. Some can’t bear an increase of even $100.

(Courtesy the Angus Reid Institute)


Those who are younger are at a greater risk of losing work, and many will face difficult decisions and trade-offs when it comes to bills, according to the poll.

More than one million people have applied for EI already, according to the federal government and those who don’t fit the regular or sickness EI requirements will be able to apply for a new emergency benefit coming in April.

Lomas says renters deserve to know they have a secure place to isolate so all of Canada can get COVID-19 under control in these critical weeks.

“I know that this is very new in what’s going on but when we’re looking at mortgages we also need to be looking at rent relief in a city where 53 per cent of the population rents,” she explains.

“If 30 per cent of that $1,800 was going towards housing that would be ‘affordable’ but this is just going to affect so many people,” she says.

Many expected Premier John Horgan to announce a moratorium on evictions or a rental subsidy on Monday after he spoke for the first time in about a week. Instead, they were told a one-time, $1,000 benefit would be provided to those who had lost their jobs.

Finance Minister Carole James says don’t expect that in your pocket until May.