Castlegar and District Community Services Society (CDCSS), with support from BC Rent Bank, is opening a new rent bank in the Kootenay region.
As of June 1, the Kootenay Rent Bank is providing housing stability services and supports to renters in low-to-moderate income households in over 100 cities, towns and villages throughout the Kootenays. Services will be facilitated in the communities of Castlegar, Nelson, Creston, Kaslo, Nakusp, New Denver, Salmo, Grand Forks, Fernie and Trail.
The Kootenay Rent Bank is operated by CDCSS, a non-profit organization that has been providing support services for children, youth, families, women, seniors and homeless for more than 40 years. Currently, CDCSS runs over 20 programs, including counselling for children, short-term housing for adults and children who have experienced domestic violence, police-based victim services, non-medical home support for seniors living independently, and volunteer drivers for seniors.
BC Rent Bank, a project funded by the provincial government, is providing initial funding to support operating costs and loan values during Kootenay Rent Bank’s first year of operations. This seed funding provides the space and time that the society needs to effectively operate a rent bank while it secures longer-term investment partners – a necessary requirement for the pilot program to be able to continue beyond its first year.
As one part of a broader housing-support system, rent banks provide housing stability and prevent homelessness for low-to-moderate income renters, when they encounter episodes or emergencies that compromise their financial stability, making them unable to pay rent or essential utilities. The purpose of a rent bank is to help people hold on to their housing when times get tough by providing small, interest-free loans and by helping people navigate their way out of the financial challenges that are putting their housing at risk.
Additionally, rent banks provide various support services that aim to stabilize a person’s housing including financial assistance; financial literacy; navigating, understanding and accessing benefits and other community supports; mediation between landlords and tenants; and advocacy for tenant rights.
While BC Rent Bank provides financial support to existing rent banks in B.C. to assist with operating costs, other investors are needed to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of rent banks. These investors include landlords and housing management companies, various levels of government, foundations with an interest in housing stability, business community, financial institutions, and other community organizations and individuals.
“CDCSS looks forward to expanding the services that we provide to the Kootenay Region,” says executive director Kristein Johnson. “By incorporating a rent bank and its wraparound support services, we will be able to reach a significant number of people and play a role in their housing stability. Our office and all of our services are dedicated to helping people who are in difficult places in their lives, and we recognize that healing begins in a safe and stable home.”