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“What if this doesn’t work out? We’re certainly afraid of that. But we’re also equally motivated by the thought of, what if it does work out and people are able to find homes?”
The spring and summer have seen social workers “treading water” focusing on protecting people during the pandemic, Burkholder Harris said.
The onset of cooler weather will increase demand for shelter space when physical distancing is critical during the pandemic. There will be pressure on the housing sector to move people out of shelters and into rental homes.
Under the initiative, instead of prospective tenants searching the city for rental units, property managers with vacancies can put up their hands and the city’s housing branch can play matchmaker.
Many of the tenants might be eligible for rent assistance, and in fact, people who qualify for subsidies and are ready to move into homes will receive priority in the program.
The main barrier to finding a home for families and individuals currently living in shelters is the legwork required to locate vacant units, Burkholder Harris said.
By providing assistance to identify available units, “we think it will help people get into a position where they can thrive and move forward with their lives.”
The Eastern Ontario Landlord Organization is a partner in the initiative and executive director John Dickie said the time could be perfect for apartment hunters.
“COVID-19 has knocked a swath of student renters out of the market,” Dickie said. “For people who have a little more trouble finding landlords willing to rent to them, it’s a really good time for them to be looking. It’s an opportune time for this program to be brought out.”