Posted on March 31, 2020
By Marva Burnett, National President of ACORN Canada
Dreading a day of catastrophe. That’s how tenants are staring down the first of April across Canada. While the federal government has announced that property owners will be allowed to defer mortgage payments, no rules have been put in place for hundreds of thousands of people who are facing the compounding economic hardship of job loss and paying rents that on a good day, ate up most of our income.
In times of crisis, when leaders shout “we’re all in this together” from every podium, tenants must count too. What we need during this crisis is break – a rent break.
As leaders of ACORN, with membership of more than 130,000 low income people across 20 neighbourhood chapters in 9 Canadian cities, we live every day the economic emergency this country is facing. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives confirmed this month that 3.4 million Canadian households pay rent. Among those tenant households, 46% have less than one month of employment income in savings.
It took decades of government policy choices to get here, including abandoning the responsibility to build affordable housing, allowing for financialization of rental property ownership, massive growth of the payday lending industry that preys on people with low income, and the end of stable jobs with decent pay.
What the Covid-19 crisis has shown is that governments can act quickly in an emergency. While ACORN members are pushing for provincial action, we need the Government of Canada to protect our households and communities. Below is our online action that calls on the governments for a Rent Break, among other critical measures:
The Government of Canada released the Economic Response Plan to deal with the crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The response is timely as it lays out a range of benefits for Canadians as well as businesses to stay afloat in these extremely challenging times.
However, the government response needs to go further in light of the challenges tenants are currently facing with COVID-19. There will still be substantial gaps between what people need and what the government has brought in with the stimulus package. For example, the roll out timing will not be as quickly as it is needed and there financial gaps for many people. The need is acute especially, in the 20 ridings across the country with the toughest affordability challenges where more than 25% of the renters spend at least 50% of their income on rent and utilities; and the 53% of Canadians who live paycheque to paycheque. This is why ACORN is calling on the federal government to immediately provide the following emergency measures.
1. Mandate a rent break:
- Enact a temporary rent-free period for all rente
- A moratorium on all evictions in Canada until the World Health Organization declares the COVID-19 pandemic has ended.
2. Freeze payments on all high interest loans with NO penalty. While mortgage payments and line of credit payments have been extended, this will not help people who have high interest loans like installment loans and payday loans that have 30 - 500% interest.
3. Direct banks to suspend NSFs charges.
4. Direct internet companies to give all people below the low income measure FREE internet so that, while in isolation, people can participate in online education, apply for benefits, and stay connected.