A government program to help low-income families avoid eviction will now be funded annually, the minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing announced here yesterday.
The province is providing $5 million to rent banks in Ontario — with $368,402 being allocated to Ottawa — through the Rent Bank Program, said Jim Watson, who is also the MPP for Ottawa West-Nepean.
Established in 2004, the program is part of the province’s poverty reduction strategy and helps tenants who face eviction for non-payment of rent. Tenants can apply to the local rent bank, which in Ottawa is run through the Salvation Army, to receive financial assistance. The outstanding rent up to two months in arrears is paid directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenant.
The program will receive $5 million per year.
Not being able to afford rent is “a huge problem in our community,” said Laura Saunders, supervisor of the Rent Bank program in Ottawa. “We get about 30 calls a day,” she said.
“Short-term arrears is the most common reason tenants with lower incomes lose their homes and are forced into shelters,” said Watson. “This new funding for the rent bank in Ottawa ensures we can continue to help low-income tenants avoid eviction for non-payment of rent due to an unforeseen crisis.”
That crisis doesn’t necessarily mean a job loss, Watson added. It could be a reduction in work hours.
In the last three years, the program has helped 564 families, or 1,500 people in Ottawa, said Salvation Army Captain Brenda Murray.