VICTORIA — The British Columbia government will offer financial relief to renters and landlords to ensure people have safe homes during the novel coronavirus pandemic, Premier John Horgan said Wednesday.
Horgan said the government will provide a monthly rebate of up to $500 to help cover rents or portions of rents during the coming months. Evictions have also been suspended along with all rent increases.
People are being told to self-isolate at home during the pandemic and the possibility of being evicted must be prevented, he said.
"We don't want people to think that they may lose that home as a result of the pandemic," Horgan said at a news conference.
He said the $500 will be paid directly to landlords.
Tenants who lose their jobs due to the pandemic or who must self-isolate can apply for the rebate in the coming days, Horgan said.
The funding for the rental protection program will come from a $5-billion fund the B.C. government recently announced, he said.
That plan includes a $1,000 tax-free payment to people economically affected by the pandemic. It also provides tax relief and other supports for businesses, people and organizations.
Spencer Chandra Herbert, the legislature member for Vancouver-West End, said he consulted tenant and landlord organizations to get input on the needs of landlords and tenants during the pandemic.
"We've been clear that no one will lose their housing because of COVID-19," said Herbert, a New Democrat. "The stress is off the charts right now. We need to give people security."
Housing Minister Selina Robinson said tenants and landlords must talk to each other to find ways to cover rents and get through the pandemic.
"It's about the people we love," she said. "It's about our families. It is about our neighbours. It is about our communities."
Under the plan, landlords are also prevented from entering rental units without the consent of a tenant, unless there is a need to protect someone's health and safety or to prevent damage to a unit.
Landlords will also be allowed to restrict the use of common areas by tenants or guests to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
Horgan said the measures being taken by the government acknowledge this is a difficult time for tenants and landlords.
"With lost jobs and lost wages due to COVID-19, many tenants are worried they can't make the rent," he said in a statement. "It's a challenging time for landlords too."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2020.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press