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Vital People: Project aims to aid low-income tenants

Vulnerable, low-income tenants in the capital region can now receive peer-to-peer support, share common tenancy concerns and bring the power of the collective voice, thanks to the newly founded Tenant Action Group, an initiative of the Together Against Poverty Society.

The group was founded at the beginning of 2017. It was made possible thanks to financial assistance from the Victoria Foundation.

The aim of the project is to develop a network of tenants with knowledge and experience about housing displacement issues.

The program is facilitated by the Together Against Poverty Society’s Tenant Legal Advocacy Project, which has been serving the community for the past 20 years.

“We provide people with a spectrum of support needs,” said Yuka Kurokawa, one of the society’s two legal advocates.

She said that one of the most concerning aspects of Victoria’s ongoing housing crisis is the rate at which tenants are being displaced from their rental units due to renovations, demolitions and disasters such as fires.

She and Emily Rogers, her co-worker, give clients information about tenancy rights, support in advocating for those rights and assistance navigating legal processes. The team engages in advocacy in an effort to influence broader social change through legislative reform.

“We provide legal-advocacy services in relation to provincial tenancy laws and regulations,” said Kurokawa.

Assistance can consist of offering information and advice about tenancy rights, referrals, negotiating and resolving issues with landlords and representation at dispute-resolution hearings through the Residential Tenancy Branch.

Kurokawa and Rogers host monthly meetings with the Tenant Action Group. They work with this core group to help establish an organizational structure, a membership base and to facilitate training opportunities.

Since its inception in January, members have begun forming working groups for different areas of interest.

One group is developing a resource guide on how to deal with renovictions, while another group is conceptualizing a peer-support initiative that will provide education and compassionate support to tenants experiencing displacement.

The ultimate goal is that the group will become self-sustaining after the first year and will continue developing and evolving as a tenant’s rights group as an independent entity.

The Tenant Action Group is organizing a public launch event, set for Oct. 11, at which they will publicize the group’s vision and mandate.

The Together Against Poverty Society is the only organization in Victoria providing free, face-to-face legal advocacy for people with income assistance, disability benefits and tenancy issues. They assist more than 5,000 people every year.

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See Times Colonist story here.

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