National rental subsidy needed to avoid mass evictions: advocates

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OTTAWA — Housing advocates say the federal government should consider a benefit for renters to make sure COVID-19 doesn’t result in a wave of evictions that renders more people homeless.

They told MPs on the House of Commons finance committee today that the $2,000-a-month emergency response benefit is not enough help for many who struggle to pay their rent.

There is also a housing and homelessness crisis in many parts of Canada, they said, and the financial strain caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic could make it worse.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced this week the federal government would work with the provinces on a program to help commercial landlords reduce rent for small businesses.

Housing advocate Veronique Laflamme told the committee the government should consider similar relief for people who may not be able to afford their housing.

The advocates say COVID-19 has highlighted some of the gaps in Canada’s safety net for those in precarious housing situations — and they should be addressed once the crisis is over.