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Hundreds of thousands sign petition demanding rent, mortgage payments be cancelled


Petition asking for rent, mortgage payments be cancelled amid COVID-19 pandemic gathers more than 764,000 signatures

Some renters and small business owners are concerned they won’t be able to make monthly payments

VANCOUVER (CityNews) – A petition has been delivered to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking for a suspension of rent and mortgage payments amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Rent and mortgage payments are due April 1, but some renters and small business owners are concerned they won’t be able to make the payment because of the novel coronavirus.

“What we’re asking for is that the government formally implement a suspension of rent and potentially mortgage payments, or landlords could apply to receive income from a pool of money to compensate for the lost income, rather than having people try and scramble to pay rent,” Bryn Smith with the B.C. ACORN housing advocacy group said.

ACORN is one of several advocacy groups who have delivered a petition with hundreds of thousands of signatures, calling for the cancellation of upcoming rents and mortgage payments.

“There are a few provinces, including B.C., that are suspending evictions – which is a good start – but if they’re not able to make those payments, they still might be thrown out whenever the pandemic is lifted,” Smith said.

Among those concerned about monthly payments are business owners.

“Absolutely, I worry about it every day,” Ofra Sixto, owner of Ofra’s Kitchen, a restaurant in Vancouver’s West End, told CityNews Vancouver.

She and other restaurant owners have had to make the switch to take-out and delivery only in an effort to support physical distancing.

It has meant a huge loss in revenue.

“I’m not making the money that I made in February, even,” Sixto said. “But I’m very lucky, very lucky to have an amazing landlord who cut my rent by so much so I can sustain the business, for now. I don’t know how long he can go with this low rent.”

A lot of other people aren’t quite as lucky, and are still scrambling to either try and make payments after making a severely reduced revenue. Some have even made the difficult decision to close up shop altogether.

“We’ve found that a quarter of businesses across Canada are worried about paying their rent or saying they can’t pay their rent for April 1st,” Laura Jones, vice president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said.

The CFIB has said the hospitality sector is the hardest by the pandemic, with 44 per cent of members saying they can’t pay their April rent.

“We had the recent announcement of the 75 per cent wage subsidy, which was very good news on the wage side, but the next looming bill for business owners is rent,” Jones added.