Neighbourhood Information Post is a not-for-profit organization located in the Toronto Public Library on Parliament and Gerrard in the Regent Park area. The Neighbourhood Information Post (NIP) serves low-income individuals and households living in the Downtown East Toronto. One of the services that NIP delivers in partnership with the City of Toronto is the Rent Bank.
The Rent Bank provides zero-interest loans for people in need of assistance in paying for rent, including those facing evictions, and new renters needing first and last months’ rent. Neighbourhood Information Post provides an array of different services, but the Rent Bank is one of their most widely accessible yet underutilized programs. Despite their grassroots word-of-mouth advertisement, the Rent Bank is rarely mentioned in conversations surrounding Housing Assistance programs in Toronto.
In recent months due to the global pandemic, there has been a rise in applicants to the Rent Bank, as many people have suffered a loss of income. Due to Bill 184, which makes it easier for landlords to obtain evictions, the Rent Bank is predicting more residents facing evictions will be applying, alongside the increase in applicants who have suffered a loss of income due to the Covid Pandemic. In past years, the use of the Rent Bank by residents of Regent Park was very low due to eligibility restrictions preventing tenants already receiving subsidized housing from applying. However, this number is rising as a result of the increase of condos and other market rent home renters in Regent Park who are struggling to pay their rent. All of these converging issues have made the Rent Bank an even higher necessity, resulting in a $2 million grant from the City of Toronto.
The Rent Bank program first started at Neighbourhood Information Post in 1999. With Municipal Governmental assistance, they provide loans to approximately 100 families each month. While Neighbourhood Information Post hosts the Rent Bank specifically to residents in the Regent Park and downtown Toronto area, Toronto Rent Bank is a joint collaboration between six other agencies across neighbourhoods in Toronto. The Rent Bank has few requirements for eligibility: applicants must be living in the city of Toronto, or, if they are moving, their new residence must be located in Toronto. Applicants cannot be Social Assistance clients, their household should be within low-income guidelines and be paying market-level rent.
Since the pandemic reached Toronto in March, there has been many changes to the application process at the Rent Bank. In efforts to minimize social interaction, in-person meetings and signed forms are no longer being used. Instead, there is a main hotline- (416)-397-7368- that will direct you to neighbourhood branches and local Rent Banks that will assist further in the application process. The rest of the application process is completed entirely on-phone and online. Any loans given past February 2020 are given a repayment deferral of up to a year, which greatly helps applicants that have joined due to job loss. The lowest repayment rate is currently $25/month, and the highest loans are $4000/up to 3 months rent.
Toronto Rent Bank and Neighbourhood Information Post have made several long-term changes to continue helping local residents in need, with preventing evictions and homelessness being their priority. For more information, go to their website at nipost.org/toronto-rent-bank.
All information was found on Neighbourhood Information Post’s website and through an interview with Toronto Rent Bank Program Leader Maja Bryon. To see a full interview with Maja Bryon and learn more about the Toronto Rent Bank, check out the RPTV youtube channel below.
By Nate Gurarie
(Nate is a summer journalist with the FOCUS Media Arts Centre)
You can watch the interview here: