'Rent bank' planned for Vancouver

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CBC
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CBC

Vancouver could soon have the city's first ever “rent bank,” where people facing eviction would be able to apply for a small loan to help pay their rent .

Research conducted at rent banks in Surrey, B.C., and Toronto suggests as many as 800 people a year in Vancouver could receive small loans to pay their rent and keep them off the street, said Dick Vollet, of the Streetohome Foundation, the group behind the Vancouver initiative.

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"It's usually single moms with kids that are really trying to make ends meet and struggling," said Vollet.

The loans are usually between $500 and $800 and borrowers would have up to two years to repay them.

The Surrey example shows how even a modestly funded bank can help.

The city’s bank started with about $120,000 in operating funds and $40,000 for loans. In its first year, the Surrey bank handed out about 70 loans, averaging $850 each, helping save about 180 people from eviction.

Businessman contributes

Vancouver businessman Frank Giustra would provide some of the start-up money for the Vancouver project, according to a Streetohome announcement Friday.

Vollet would not say how much Giustra has committed, but said that the funding would keep the rent bank running for a number of years.

The city government has yet to buy into the plan.

"We haven't allocated funding on the city side yet,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “We are still looking at the budget for next year, and we have an election as well. It's something I want to pursue."

Streetohome is still looking for partners to help it launch the program.

"Logistics are fairly complex, as you can well imagine,” said Vollet. “I think we're fairly close.”

Vollet said he hoped the bank could start issuing loans by next spring.

With files from the CBC's Tim Weekes and Steve Lus