March 24, 2020
Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Chair, Cabinet Committee on the federal response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
Hon. Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
Open Letter – RE: Nationwide Rent Freeze and Guaranteed Income to Protect Canadians needed before Rent Day
Dear Deputy Prime Minister Freeland and Minister Hussen,
As we approach the end of the month in 6 days, rent and mortgage payments will be due for renters and homeowners across Canada. While a number of economic measures have been announced, they will not be enough to protect Canadians from losing their housing during these difficult times. The increase in GSTC and CCB payments won’t be received until May, and application for the Emergency Care Benefit doesn’t open until April. There are many others who don’t equality for these measures but have suffered debilitating income loss during the pandemic, including but not limited to small business owners, and gig, freelance, contract workers, artists and people in the film industry during the crisis. For people on fixed incomes, such as seniors and people on disability pensions and benefits, the decrease in accessibility to community programming mean that living costs are increasing.
While the E.I. program and other credit measures have been expanded, the reality remains that the payments will not come in time to meet the immediate needs of Canadians. As well, many Canadians, including seniors and people on disability benefits, may not be eligible for the measures.
It is also important to note also that as people scramble to apply for the many different programs, the capacity for our system to process the many applications will be exceeded. For many low and modest income earners who were just getting by, the partial income replacement is not enough to cover basic costs. As rent day draws near, more and more constituents are reaching out to me and telling me that they have to make the impossible choice between rent, utilities, medication and food. This situation is the same across Canada, as people face uncertainty and are looking to the government to provide help and guidance during this very difficult time.
Complicating the issue is that tenancy laws are different province to province. Some provinces have enacted moratoriums on evictions while others have not. Even in jurisdictions where there is an eviction moratorium in place, renters and homeowners alike are concerned about being hit with a lump sum bill with all deferred payments, accrued interests and late charges once the moratorium is lifted.
As you know, Canada was already experiencing a housing crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic. The added challenges and vulnerability faced by Canadians is exacerbating already existing issues, such as tenants facing renovictions and demovictions. Imagine being a vulnerable, low/modest income earner who is facing a loss of income during this time and having to navigate looking for a home at the same time!
Homeowners are also receiving mixed responses from their banks about the possibility of deferring mortgage payments, with some banks providing a deferral but not alleviating interest charges, while others are evaluating requests for mortgage deferral on a “case-by-case basis”. Some homeowners do not know if they will qualify at all for mortgage deferral, and they have not been able to contact their banks with all the phone lines being busy.
All the aforementioned factors leave too much uncertainty and too much vulnerability for Canadians across the country. To protect Canadians from losing their homes, the government must step in now, before rent day, and take action to enact a nation-wide rent-freeze, eviction freeze, mortgage-freeze, and utilities-freeze.
As aforementioned, Canadians are being financially impacted by this pandemic in many ways, including job loss, income loss, increased costs of acquiring basic necessities like food, and others. The people in Canada urgently need a nationwide freeze on rent, mortgage, evictions and utility payment. To ensure that no one is left behind, we need to put in place a guaranteed income for all during the pandemic.
The NDP is calling for the government to cut the administrative burden by providing direct assistance to everyone in Canada in the form of a monthly guaranteed income of $2000 a month, with an addition of $250 per child right away until the pandemic is over.
As rent day is due for Canadians in a few days, it is crucial that we act now.
Member of Parliament for Vancouver East
NDP Critic for Housing
The Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos
The Hon. Navdeep Singh Bains
The Hon. William Sterling Blair
The Hon. Patricia Hajdu
The Hon. Mélanie Joly
The Hon. William Francis Morneau
The Hon. Carla Qualtrough
The Honourable Kirsty Duncan