Thank you, Mr. Chair.
You have my apologies. Of course, the one time my computer and Internet would go down would be right now, so this is what we call improvisation.
As some of you know, the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association is the national association representing the social non-profit and affordable housing sector in Canada. I'm very pleased to be joined by board member Robert Byers, whom you've just heard from.
I would add that during this pandemic, social and non-profit housing providers have played a vital role, often under the radar and rarely acknowledged by the media. Housing providers have maintained safe and affordable housing for approximately 600,000 households across the country, many of which are low income or vulnerable. They've worked with community advisory boards and local governments to secure short-term housing solutions for homeless populations, which has been aided by the one-time $157 million in extra financing provided through the reaching home program.
Housing providers have provided a range of social supports and services to tenants, often at great personal risk given that the access to personal protective equipment for providers has been a significant problem. They've worked with tenants to find solutions to loss of income or employment such that no tenant has been forced to leave due to an inability to pay rent. As an example, in British Columbia, a survey of housing providers was done that indicated that 46% of housing providers in the province had deferred or waived rent for some of those tenants.
Despite this good work, housing providers are of course being impacted by the pandemic. Based on some surveys and feedback we've received, there have been a couple of quick lessons we've learned. For example, the number of units in arrears or units unable to pay rent has actually been relatively low, about 10% to 15%. This is because, in part, seniors who live in some of these units are living on fixed incomes, and therefore, the pandemic has had a limited financial impact. As well, federal support programs such as CERB have helped mitigate the impact.
Another reason, though, that arrears have been so low is that many units in non-profit housing are a rent-geared-to-income model, meaning that rents are calculated as a proportion of a person's income. As a person's income goes down due to impacts such as loss of employment, the rent they pay goes down. Although this assists the tenant, it has a negative financial impact for the housing provider, as their total revenue also goes down.
A final difficulty faced by providers is that many units are in fact sitting vacant. Because of physical distancing and cleansing requirements, housing providers are often not able to rent out units to prospective tenants during this period. Quebec has said this is a problem. In B.C., that aforementioned survey I referenced, 17% of respondents indicated that they were experiencing vacancies due to the pandemic, which not only reduces income but of course reduces housing.