BC Rent Bank: Zero-interest loans to keep people housed

Feb 2021 | Resources

The rent bank in Nanaimo has only existed for a month and a half, but already applications for loans are being sent in daily. 

It’s great to see residents in need reaching out for help, says John McCormick, co-executive director of the Nanaimo Region John Howard Society, the organization that’s running the rent bank. But this quick uptake of the BC rent bank also reflects how many Nanaimo citizens are on the brink of losing their homes. 

“We’ve just started up and not done much in the way of advertising … [and] every day we’re getting more,” says McCormick. 

“I expect that’s how it’s going to be.” 

But the rent bank is ready to step in to help, providing zero-interest loans so people in immediate need can keep from losing their housing, by paying for rental arrears or essential utility arrears. 

“Someone contacts us because they’ve hit that moment where they’re going to get evicted if they don’t come up with the rent,” says McCormick of the purpose of the rent bank.  

“It’s an emergency situation, so the response times have to be super fast. We have to go from a pre-assessment to a working relationship with the person in a few days, and working with their landlord.” 

“These are folks who are not going to get the support they need from a financial institution of any kind, and if they do they will be in a predatory situation where they are going to be preyed upon,” he says. 

With the BC rent bank, repayments can be small, and pauses in repayments are allowed when necessary. 

“We want you to be stabilized,” says McCormick. “We’re going to make sure you’re not going to be evicted, and everything else we’ll work with you on.” 

McCormick noted that the rent bank is focused on dealing with short-term need, and cannot address every issue. Nonetheless, there are other supports available, he noted. Even if the rent bank isn’t the right fit, connecting with the Nanaimo Region John Howard Society can help those in need connect with other forms of support. 

Currently, the maximum loan amounts noted on the Nanaimo Region John Howard Society’s Rent Bank web page are: 

-$1,400 for individuals 

-$1,700 for families 

-$500 for essential utility arrears. 

For more info about the rent bank, or to apply for a loan, go to johnhowardbc.ca/nanaimo/services/rent-bank/

The rent bank is funded by the City of Nanaimo, BC Rent Bank, United Way Central & Northern Vancouver Island and the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy

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