New tool to support Vancouver cultural spaces proposed

Published Feb 10, 2020 1:25 PM

Fry’s Cultural Spaces Rent Bank proposal could be a lifeline for struggling artist-run performance spaces, studios, galleries and more.

VANCOUVER, B.C. – City Councillor Pete Fry is introducing a motion aimed at establishing a Cultural Spaces Rent Bank to support precarious arts and cultural spaces in Vancouver.

Rent banks provide low or no-interest loans to low-income households who have regular income but face eviction as a result of a short-term financial crisis. Typically seen as a homelessness prevention strategy, Fry’s rent bank proposal would be a first of its kind for cultural spaces.

The system would be modeled after the Vancouver Rent Bank: the motion looks at creating a capital pool with the city and other partner organizations to make short-term interest-free loans, or bridge-funding, available to qualified applicants in the arts and culture community.

Fry, sits on the steering committee for the new $10m provincially-funded BC Rent Bank and was struck by the obvious similarities of renters in a tough market.

“Artists and cultural organizations face many of the the same challenges as working tenants with low incomes including, precarious incomes, month-to-month cash flow, inability to secure conventional loans, and unexpected disruptions like illness,"  said Fry.

“But, unlike residential tenants, cultural spaces are not protected by the Residential Tenancy Act. Unexpected costs such as rent hikes, taxes, insurance, maintenance fees, or just a bad month too often means the loss of valuable community assets."

The City currently makes a number of arts and culture grants available, including the Cultural Infrastructure Grants Program and the emergency Critical Assistance Grant for Cultural Spaces, but the eligibility requirements and timelines are restricting and the opportunity to borrow money for bridge financing is filling a real gap.

“With alarming frequency we hear about cultural spaces struggling with cash flow and unexpected expenses; operators turning to crowdsourcing, or maxing out personal credit cards. Our city staff tell us there is a very real need for this sort of initiative.

“Establishing a rent bank will help protect our cultural spaces and can be another tool to help ensure stability for our treasured local artists and organizations.

“Building upon our ground-breaking Culture|Shift strategy is about who we are as a city, what we want our identity to be. I believe arts and cultural spaces are the soul of our city and we need to be doing everything we can to preserve and protect them.”

Fry’s motion appears before council on February 11, 2020.


More Information:

Motion: Cultural Spaces Rent Bank