In 2020, we introduced the RentSmart Certificate to the Life Skills Education curriculum for our Work 2 Live crew. In our last post, we told you how important supportive housing is for keeping a community’s most vulnerable residents healthy. In this blog, you will learn more about this amazing program and how it benefits communities across BC.
It seems more common that young people are being asked to trade meeting basic needs for independence. Our hope is that with more education, compassion, and champions, that doesn’t have to be the case for our province’s young people for much longer.
Over the last twenty-three years, we have tried out a lot of tools and services that help disadvantaged youth navigate adulthood. RentSmart and the RentSmart Certificate is one of the best programs we’ve found that do just that. Which is why we’ve added it to our Work 2 Live programming.
What is RentSmart?
RentSmart is a program run through Ready to Rent BC, a non-profit that has been working to improve BC’s housing rental market through education for the last ten years. And now there programs are being offered in communities across Canada. They believe that being a good tenant and roommate are not innate skills. But that they can be taught. Their programs are grounded in a framework of housing stability and prevention.
The majority of young people seeking their first rental unit can rely on parents to sign the lease as a guarantor, they might have savings or at least a good job that can provide stable income, and they probably have a support network to give them advice and steer them towards resources.
However, most of our participants do not have the benefit of a support network that can help them to find safe, stable housing. And without a place to live, it’s difficult to be employed, go back to school, stay healthy, work on personal goals, or lead an otherwise independent life. For some of our participants, we become their support network. And now, thanks to tools like RentSmart and the Friendly Landlord Network (more about them next week), we can do more to help them access safe and secure housing when they leave Work 2 Live.
How does RentSmart help?
For young people who have no or poor credit, references, or experience as a renter in market housing, it can feel impossible to find a good landlord who will give them a chance, provide a safe, secure home, and respect their rights.
On the flip side, for landlords who fear that the wrong tenant can leave them open to a number of dangers, renting to a young person without those things can feel too risky.
This has been the experience for many of our participants and also many of the young people coming to Whistler. And for our grads who go on to seek rentals after they leave Work 2 Live, it continues to be a barrier to finding a place to call home.
In the last year, our programming staff have taken the RentSmart Educators course so that we can deliver the curriculum as part of our Life Skills Education program for Work 2 Live.
From the RentSmart website:
Over the 6 modules, the RentSmart Certificate will teach you:
1. What your housing wants and needs are, and how to find a home that meets your needs
2. How to be housing ‘application-ready’
3. About how the law protects both tenants and landlords
4. Your legal rights and responsibilities, and that of your landlords’
5. How to manage your money in order to afford housing and pay your rent on time
6. Effective communication skills to help your tenancy be conflict-free
7. Common maintenance skills to help you look after your home
When you finish, you get a RentSmart Certificate, which lets landlords know you have taken the time to learn how to be a responsible tenant.
The Certificate itself can be used on rental applications as a reference, and shows that the applicant is committed to creating a healthy rental relationship with their landlord and roommates. They also help to support RentSmart Certificate-holders when questions and issues arise with their tenancies. Not to mention, the skills and knowledge received during the training that can help participants spot potentially harmful situations and navigate challenges along the way.
RentSmart is also involved with the RentSmart Guarantee Fund, a pilot program that helps give landlords peace of mind when renting to RentSmart tenants. Risk mitigation funds like these help increase the amount of quality rental homes available for disadvantaged youth.
The RentSmart Certificate is part of Work 2 Live
The Whistler Community Foundation have made it possible to offer the RentSmart Certificate to the current crew and some graduates. This spring we received one of their Social Care Community Grants to run this program. Big thanks to their team!
Laura, our amazing Life Skills Education Coordinator, sent us this update on the progress the crew are making in the certificate so far (remotely, via Zoom):
Since mid March we have been working on RentSmart’s Ready to Rent program which consists of 6 modules designed to educate folks to be aware of their rights and responsibilities as a renter and become confident and skilled at finding and keeping a home.
The most recent module we finished was on managing finances. One of the interesting takeaways during this session was that most of the things that the crew identified as bringing them the most joy (gardening, being outdoors, sense of community & belonging) are the things that cost the least.
Since everyone is experiencing changes in their finances due to Covid-19, we are spending more time focusing on budgeting and how to modify spending habits to ensure that all our needs are being met. For the next 2 weeks we have expert speakers coming in from the Credit Counseling Society to give us more information on the truth about credit, interest rates, credit rating, and debt management.
We have also completed Rent Smart modules focusing on the importance of home and the details of applying for housing during which we go through actual applications and look at rental agreements to become familiar with these often daunting documents.
Coming up are modules on tenancy law, communication and taking care of your home.
RentSmart in the community
A program like this could make a difference in communities like Whistler, where the rental market has been notoriously challenging. Thanks to funds from the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s Community Enrichment Program, Zero Ceiling will be hosting and delivering RentSmart Basics and RentSmart Landlord workshops in Whistler. These 2-3 hour workshops are targeted for people who want a basic understanding of their rights and responsibilities, as well as some practical tools, for healthy rental situations.
In a place like Whistler, where the pre-COVID-19 rental market was one of the most challenging in the province, we know that educating tenants and landlords can make the community more rental-friendly. Sign up to our mailing list so you’ll be the first to hear when registration opens in Whistler.
More RentSmart resources: