VTAG Steering Committee members at our 6-month visioning session.

All those smiles after 3+ hours of visioning!

July 17, 2020 Newsletter

BC is making you bail out your landlords—eviction ban ends in September and "repayment plan" begins in October

We and many other renters across BC have warned of a mass eviction wave following the end of the eviction ban for rent non-payment and the BC government has responded--by delaying some of those evictions without addressing the problem. BC will end the eviction ban on September 1st, and evictions for nonpayment can apply to all rent due on or after that date. For rent charged before September, tenants will have to enter a repayment plan lasting until July 2021.

This 10-month repayment plan continues the false presumption that tenants are shirking their rent responsibility, and it loads the financial impact of the COVID pandemic onto the backs of those least able to pay. Along with renters across BC, VTAG is calling for rent debt amnesty to offer real protection to renters who are vulnerable to eviction.

 

Rent debt is the fault of the government, not renters

Rent debt is being framed as a necessary payment that tenants have skipped due to the pandemic. But in fact it is an unfair cost forced on people at a time when many could not work but still required shelter. It is the consequence of the government not stepping up and cancelling rent and mortgage payments for even a single month at the height of a global shutdown and public health emergency. It is BC passing the economic fallout of the pandemic down to workers and others who are least able to pay.

"Repayments" are an unaffordable increase to already unaffordable rent

The requirement of year-long payment plans for "rent debt" is a defacto rent increase, is unaffordable, and exceeds what the Residential Tenancy Act would allow. Rent prices have already grown 15% in the past year according to this week's new data from PadMapper. One-bedrooms in Victoria are now up to an obscene $1600 after yet another year of triple-digit price increases. 

BC rent was completely unsustainable before the pandemic, and property owners were fuelling a housing crisis at our expense. Now the provincial government, after failing to tame the housing crisis, is insisting that renters pay even more in order to keep afloat the people who’ve profited off the crisis. Renters in long-term homes are supposed to be protected from these increases by the annual cap and the supposed current rent freeze the province has promised. Tacking on monthly payments for debt that shouldn't exist is a rent increase that will push vulnerable renters out to try to work more as the second wave hits us.  

Landlords can pay, tenants can't 

Landlords can defer mortgage payments but are still requiring renters to pay every month. Many landlords are even mortgage-free, so CERB and the $300 supplement have been a handout for them. Most landlords in BC are not "mom and pops" and for those that are we have advocated for no-penalty, no-interest mortgage deferral. We are expected to pay for our landlord's second, fifth, or hundredth home and keep their passive income coming in when many of us who labour for the income they rely on are still unable to work.

The assumption that CERB, $300, and reopenings have replaced tenants' incomes is false. Many people fell through the cracks of CERB. Many Victoria renters work in the hospitality industry, which may take years to recover. But now, despite losing the income that rent already ate half of, they are expected to take on a 10-month rent increase. 

Rent debt amnesty! 

VTAG is demanding rent debt amnesty, structured in a way that does not leave behind those who paid rent they couldn't afford due to their fear of debt. The province must stop unjustly downloading the cost of the pandemic to renters. The province must do better than impose yearlong mandatory "repayment" plans, which are just rent increases by another name. 

We urge you to reach out if you're being exploited, threatened, or pressured—and to begin organizing with your neighbours to help protect each other from eviction and mistreatment. We are here to support you in that and will be working this summer to organize tenants and pressure officials and landlords to back off of rent debt and debt evictions.

VTAG 6-month visioning session

In July, we held our (physically-distant) 6-month VTAG visioning session at MEEGAN. It was such a treat to get to meet in person and to collectively reflect on our work so far and determine our direction for the next 6 months. A lot of our work since December has been focused on creating a strong foundation for our organizing through strengthening our internal structure, policies, and processes. With a strong foundation, we can create a sustainable and supportive organizing environment that will allow VTAG to keep organizing for housing justice for the long haul! It's been a lot of work, but we are very excited to see our hard work turning into the increased capacity we need to focus more of our energy on external projects and campaigns in the coming months.

Banner Making and Drop-In Event:

Socially Distanced of Course!

The UVic Tenant Action Group and Victoria Tenant Action Group invite you to gather for an afternoon sign-making and drop-in event. We are coming together to build community, discuss issues directly affecting renters, and make signs and banners in support of housing justice.

This is an outdoor event, so we will postpone if the weather is bad. There will be single-serving food, bus tickets, social distancing, masks and sanitizer, and great people of course! All sign-making and other supplies will be provided. If you have specific requests to participate (such as special transportation fare), please reach out to us at tenants.victoria@gmail.com

When: Saturday October 3 2020, 11 am-2 pm

Where: Centennial Square

Why a Teach-In? Why now?

In response to the ongoing housing crisis and the lifting of B.C.'s pandemic-related eviction moratorium, VTAG and UVicTAG are taking a stand with the following demands:

1. No evictions during COVID

The COVID crisis has exacerbated the already uneven power dynamic between tenants and landlords. BC’s eviction moratorium stopped some evictions from happening, but failed to protect all those at risk of eviction. Now, the eviction moratorium is lifting while COVID numbers are rapidly rising and the economy remains in crisis. VTAG is demanding a ban on all evictions during the COVID economic crisis.

2. Cancel rent & erase rent debt

The inability to pay rent during this crisis should not be understood as a collection of individual failures, but as a result of the crises of capitalist speculation and government deregulation - the housing crisis is just one of many intersecting layers of crises that this pandemic has pushed to a breaking point. We demand that the cost of this pandemic not be borne by people in poverty while landlords profiteer from our monthly payments, and the government offers billions in corporate bailouts.

3. Shelter in place, now and always

VTAG demands that all people, whether they are housed, or living in a tent or a vehicle, must be able to shelter in place, at all times of day, without penalty. Addressing homelessness means making affordable housing available - and this housing must not simply warehouse people, but offer autonomy, self-determination and dignity.

4. Landlord accountability

Recognizing housing as a human necessity, a common good, and a fundamental right means democratizing housing and bringing it under public control. This is a process that can begin by implementing greater accountability for those who are landlords under the current system.

We demand real housing justice for all. Not just during the pandemic, but always.

We hope to see you there on October 3!

 

R.S.V.P. on Facebook

For questions or more information, e-mail tenants.victoria@gmail.com

Notes on accessibility for this event at Centennial Square

For more information you can contact us or try contacting the City of Victoria.

This event is in an open-air, public event. The sensory environment cannot be controlled. While attendees will be expected to socially distance and practice good COVID-19 hygiene protocol, the actions of others sharing this public space cannot be controlled.

 

Children are welcome but no organized childcare is provided.

There is a pay phone on Fisgard Ave. east of Government St.

 

There are some small areas that are designated no-smoking, near the Government/ Fisgard corner of the square.

Centennial Parkade has elevator access to Centennial Square. A vehicle could stop temporarily for a drop-off on Government St. (northbound lane) between Fisgard and Pandora, where there is a ramped curb providing access to the sloped walkway that leads to the square. There is also a passenger 2-minute drop-off zone on Pandora just east of Government, but the 2-lane bike lane is between the drop-off spot and the ramped curb that leads to the sidewalk. Pay

parking is available on the streets around the square.

More parking info: https://www.victoria.ca/EN/main/residents/parking/parkades.html

The square has numerous benches as seating. There are some covered outdoor spaces in the square, but they do not have seating and the ground is concrete.

 

There is public transit access on Douglas Street, and an access ramp to get to the square from Douglas Street, about half a block's walk into the square.

 

There is a public outdoor sink with soap and potable water in the square, but this may not be accessible from a wheelchair.

There are bike racks in various locations around the square.

There are security guards on site.

There are public washrooms available, but no gender-neutral washrooms. The washrooms are accessed by ramps but they are in slightly narrow hallways. There are grab rails on the way to the "men's" washroom but not to the "women's". The washroom doors are heavy, open with a handle that has to

turn, and do not open automatically. The washrooms have safe needle disposal sites. Washrooms are brightly lit, and have a large stall for wheelchair access. The sinks are high, with room for wheelchairs underneath. The "women's" washroom has a porthole on the door so people can see into the washroom

space. The "women's" washroom has a baby changing table. There is no hand sanitizer available in the washroom but there is soap and water.

Check out these beautiful Banners!

What's New?

VTAG recognizes the relationship between displacement and colonialism and organizes within the unceded territories of the Lkwungen (Esquimalt and Songhees), Malahat, Pacheedaht, Scia’new, T’Sou-ke and W̱SÁNEĆ (Pauquachin, Tsartlip, Tsawout, Tseycum) peoples.

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tenants.victoria@gmail.com

1581-H Hillside Ave. 

Box 183

Victoria BC V8T 2C1