Rent relief still a concern for businesses

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 3:21 PDT, Tue May 5, 2020

Last Updated: 2:13 PDT, Wed May 12, 2021

Although federal rent relief will be available soon, some Richmond businesses are unsure the assistance will reach them.

“We’ve heard some positive feedback about the new federal CECRA (Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance) rental assistance program, where landlords have said they’re quite willing to access the program once the details are finalized,” city economic development manager Katie Ferland said during Monday’s Richmond COVID-19 Community Task Force meeting. “But we’ve also been hearing just as many negative stories from businesses who say their landlords are not interested in pursuing this option, or they don’t want to contribute the 25 per cent, or in some cases they can’t afford to and unfortunately some of these businesses are facing eviction.”

Ferland added that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business has put together a letter template for business owners to share specific financial hardship and actions already taken to improve financial stability. If businesses share these facts with their landlords, more landlords may take advantage of the federal rent relief program.

Chamber president Matt Pitcairn said he has heard from many members who are concerned about the federal rent relief program.

“The federal response to date seems to be that 75 per cent of revenue for landlords is better than zero per cent,” he said. “We do not have expectations that this program will change. Our focus will now be at the provincial level. We plan to work with the province to improve uptake of this program.”

Ultimately, Pitcairn said, landlords have to be willing to apply for support in order for the program to be successful.

“The program is a good start, but we’re seeing a lot of hurdles,” said Pitcairn. “Rent continues to be one of the top priorities at the chamber.”

The chamber is hosting a virtual town hall at 10 a.m. on Friday. Members are encouraged to sign up and join the discussion about possible recovery plans and how to support and connect with each other.

—With files from Lorraine Graves

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