Struggling B.C. renters send hundreds of postcards to housing minister

VANCOUVER (CityNews) — When Housing Minister David Eby returns to his office after the holidays, he’ll be greeted with a stack of cards — but they won’t be offering him season’s greetings.

The Vancouver Tenants Union has illustrated postcards with stories of renters struggling through the pandemic, and are using them to ask Eby to reinstate a ban on evictions, and to forgive rent debt.

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This holiday season, hundreds…

Posted by Vancouver Tenants Union on Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Vancouver Tenants Union surveyed 400 renters before the ban on evictions in B.C. was lifted on Sept. 1, and tenants reported deteriorating mental health, going hungry, and fears about making rent.

“The pandemic has been the worst crisis of renters’ lives. Over the past several months we’ve heard from thousands of renters about how they’re deeply struggling,” says spokesperson Mazdak Gharibnavaz

“The stories were very difficult to read when we were doing the survey back in August. I specifically remember one person who was a single mother, and they were getting evicted with their three children. And they were considering sending their children to live with someone else so they would be able to try and make it through this.”

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Vancouver-based illustrator James Lloyd helped bring some of those stories to life.

“There’s one about a tenant who was about to move into a camper van because the travel industry had been put on hold and taken such hits,” he tells CityNews.

“I was also moved by the second story which is about a mother and her son, who were both dealing with mental health issues and had been evicted, and were now having to look at new accommodations that they simply couldn’t afford.”

Gharibnavaz says the demands the union is making of the province are based on what renters say they need most.

“We made hundreds of phone calls to members. Sixty per cent said they themselves or someone they know personally would benefit from having eviction ban in place. Fifty-seven per cent said cancelling rent debt would be important to them.”

Eby wasn’t available today, but an email statement from his office says the public health situation in the province very different that it was in March.

“We brought in the eviction ban when thousands of people were losing their jobs and things were much more uncertain than they are now with a vaccine on the horizon,” it reads.

“The November Labour Force Survey saw employment rates back at 98.5 per cent of pre-pandemic levels — the highest recovery rate of Canada’s four largest provinces.”