To Curb Evictions, Toronto Makes its Rent Bank Program Permanent
Thanks to new changes, we’ll hopefully see fewer evictions in Toronto.
Today, Toronto City Council has moved to make Toronto Rent Bank grant-based program permanent to help prevent evictions in the city.
Toronto City Council approved the permanent conversion of the existing Toronto Rent Bank into a grant-based program, which will help more people in Toronto who were at risk of eviction stay in their rental homes. Council’s direction is the direct result of a successful pandemic-related pilot that prevented eviction and homelessness for many Toronto residents, says the City (although nobody can deny that homelessness has still surged in the past two years, but that’s another discussion).
In May 2021, recognizing the financial stresses many Toronto residents were facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the City made significant program enhancements to the Toronto Rent Bank. Council approved a pilot of the Rent Bank model that provided grants instead of loans for any new households accessing the program. It also suspended any loan repayment requirements for existing Rent Bank clients during the period of the pilot program, which ran until March 31, 2022. The City invested additional funds into the program which supported its success during the pilot.
“By preventing homelessness, the Toronto Rent Bank is supporting people when they need it most and today we’ve taken action to improve this vital program,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory. “We all want Toronto residents to be able to stay in their homes and I am excited about the ways in which this program will continue to provide critical support to people before they face eviction.”
This pilot program positively impacted the lives of Torontonians who were at risk of evictions, allowing local families and individuals to remain in their homes and avoid homelessness. A total of 1,744 households were able to avoid eviction by receiving a grant during the pilot period, says the City. This was an increase of 52% over 2020 — or an additional 594 households. The City points to a recent survey of Rent Bank grant recipients who confirmed that the grants were imperative to them maintaining their housing when faced with economic uncertainty during the ongoing pandemic.
In recognition of this success, and in acknowledgment of the continued financial challenges faced by many Toronto residents, Council has approved these changes on a permanent basis. “As a City we have been working hard to create affordable homes for people experiencing homelessness. It’s important for the future well-being of our city and its residents. Along with creating new affordable homes, though, we must support Toronto residents who are housed, but at risk of eviction. Making the Toronto Rent Bank into a grant program makes sense, so that people who need support can get it without facing repayment stresses or burdens.”
Making the program permanent allows the Toronto Rent Bank to continue to issue support as grants. Additionally, there are provisions for forgiveness of loans issued prior to the pandemic, should repayment result in undue financial hardship. This represents an investment of close to $5M for Toronto Rent Bank, something that was approved in the City’s 2022 budget. “City staff are committed to working with the City’s partner, Neighbourhood Information Post, and Toronto Rent Bank loan recipients, putting safeguards in place to ensure they can continue to pay their rent each month,” says the City.