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Vancouver Rent Bank already 'swamped'

A rent bank set up in the city last fall to help people pay their rent has approved 105 interest-free loans totalling $100,361 since October, says the managing director of the Vancouver Rent Bank.

A rent bank set up in the city last fall to help people pay their rent has approved 105 interest-free loans totalling $100,361 since October, says the managing director of the Vancouver Rent Bank.

Amanda Pollicino said the one-time loans ranged from $200 to $1,800, with the average falling in the $900 range. The youngest recipient was in their late teens, the eldest in their 80s.

We are swamped, she said of the

applications.

Although Pollicino anticipated a high demand for the service, she didnt expect more than half of the loans would go to people 55 and older, or that more than 55 per cent are single.

That was very telling about how things are and how many seniors havent prepared for retirement, or that the family structure isnt there to support them, she said, noting single parent families comprised another 17 per cent of successful loan applicants.

The statistics also show 57 recipients were male, 53 were female and more than 40 per cent were employed. Others were pensioners, persons with disabilities, receiving income assistance, or had a combination of income sources.

Its usually people who have experienced some sort of financial crisis that has led them to have a stop in income coming in, or something has happened that theyre not able to make their full rent payment, Pollicino said. The only one where theres a pattern is with people who were laid off and are waiting for their [employment insurance] claim to be processed. Every other case is a case unto itself.

Recipients were predominantly from the East Side of the city but others are living in various parts of Vancouver, which Pollicino acknowledged is an expensive place to live when surviving on a limited income.

All applicants must be screened by the rent banks loan committee. If accepted, a repayment plan is set up that can run a maximum of 24 months, where the person has money automatically withdrawn from their account.

A loan of $500 requires a monthly payment of approximately $22 per month and $1,300 loan costs about $55 per month, according to the rent banks formula for

repayment.

So far, one person repaid her loan of $1,800. When the rent bank began operating in October, it was anticipated the monthly repayments would be 70 per cent. Pollicino said it is at 74 per cent.

Although the rent bank doesnt have any legal recourse to recoup the funds, Pollicino said many of the recipients understand the need to pay back their loans.

They understand that if the fund doesnt replenish itself to what we have projected, then this will not be able to continue, she said, noting the rent bank has rejected at least 50 applications for various reasons, including a persons inability to provide three months of bank statements.

The rent bank was established to operate for three years. Its loan budget is $365,000 over three years and provided by the Streetohome Foundation, which has also contributed various sums towards the construction of social housing in Vancouver.

For operating costs, the City of Vancouver agreed to provide $49,000 per year over three years and the Vancouver Foundation will contribute $30,000 each year, for a combined total of $240,000 over three years.

Pollicino said a more detailed report on the rent bank is expected to go before city council later this month.

mhowell@vancourier.com

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