A Resource in the Search for Affordable Housing

BY BENJAMIN YONG

In today’s modern world, you can find online classifieds for almost anything. And thanks to the Richmond Rental Connect (RRC) service, that now even includes low income housing.

A registry containing listings of available suites in the area, RRC is moderated by the Richmond Poverty Response Committee (RPRC), a non-profit organization that seeks to alleviate the effects of poverty in the community. Project coordinator of the committee Lynda Brummitt says “it’s like Craigslist, but better.”

Brummitt adds that before its inception, during the winter of 2012, the idea of setting up such a service had existed for quite some time.

“People needed a place they could go to get housing in their price range. It was one of the things on a shopping list of five or six things that our [Affordable] Housing Task Force wanted to accomplish. We decided to take it on with no idea what we were going to do,” she says, laughing.

Brummitt and the rest of the team met with landlords and tenants and heard horror stories about the respective groups’ relationships with each other that often stemmed from miscommunication and lack of knowledge. That’s when the RPRC got the idea of gathering everyone together in one place for an education session.

Before landlords can post their properties on the site, found at richmondrentalconnect.ca, and also before tenants can gain access to browse listings, both parties must attend an introductory RRC workshop led by volunteers from the B.C. government’s Residential Tenancy Branch.

“The reason for that is to make sure the landlords and tenants all have the same information about how to do rental agreements, terms and conditions and rights and responsibilities,” says Brummitt.

The workshops are hosted regularly, and so far about 80 people have attended. The general feedback has been positive and participants have said they didn’t realize all the things that had to be considered before entering into an agreement.

Entering its second year, the RRC has thus far attracted users through word-of-mouth and flyer drops.

“We target landlords with a secondary suite within a house, or it could be a coach house on top of a garage.”

Brummitt says these types of housing tend to be the most affordable and address Richmond’s lack of purpose-built rental housing.

“We’re not in a position to tell people what they should charge for their rent. What we do is educate landlords and explain that affordable rent is 30 per cent of someone’s income.”

“Let’s say median income is $48,000. If you’re charging $1,200, $1,300 it gets out of sync. We’ve made them a calculator that they can see on the website. It can help provide some guidance when they’re setting their rent.”

Going forward, the goal of the RRC is to find a way to convert higher numbers of the people who attend the workshops to actually visit the website and take advantage of the service.

“We need to find a way to get people excited to use the registry.”

For more information about Richmond Rental Connect, visit the website or call 604-205-4700 and leave a message. The public is also invited to attend the RPRC monthly meetings that take place the first Thursday of every month from 4:30 until 6 p.m. at the Richmond Caring Place (7000 Minoru Blvd.).