Urgent Demands and Actions for Right to Housing

Demonstration in Quebec City, September 16, 2022, demands solutions to the housing crisis.

In the Quebec election, organizations defending the right to housing are taking a firm stand on the housing crisis that is hitting low- and modest-income individuals and families particularly hard. They are putting forward demands based on social housing in order to resolve the crisis.

The People's Action Front for Urban Renewal (FRAPRU) and the Regrouping of Housing Committees and Tenant Associations of Quebec (RCLALQ) organized a demonstration on September 16 in Quebec City demanding solutions to the housing crisis, including rent control and social housing.

In its August 26 press release, FRAPRU writes:

"Like the municipalities and several other bodies, FRAPRU is concerned about the unprecedented deterioration of the rental housing situation in Quebec: a rapid increase in the rents of available housing, a critical scarcity of family housing, an increase in fraudulent schemes induced by real estate speculation. The group notes the equally rapid impoverishment of tenant households, more and more of whom are at risk of finding themselves on the street.

"According to the organization, solutions exist and are known. Social housing is one of the essential and sustainable responses to the current crisis. Because it is non-profit and subsidized by the State, it takes profit out of the housing equation and protects tenants from the excesses of the private market by offering them a safe roof for which they are able to pay. 'But above all, by being collectively owned, social housing, whether cooperative, non-profit or public, remains indefinitely affordable,' reiterated Véronique Laflamme, spokesperson for FRAPRU."

According to FRAPRU, the latest available data from Statistics Canada is very clear on the need for social housing. It writes:

"More than 195,000 renter households in Quebec already spend half or more of their income on housing, which is well above the 30 per cent standard recognized by the SHQ [Housing Board]. According to the organization, the long waiting lists for low-cost housing (HLM) -- which total more than 37,000 registrations -- illustrate the urgency to act, but indicate only part of the needs by counting only the eligible households that have made a request. This list also does not take into account the thousands of households hoping to obtain a place in a non-profit organization (NPO) or housing cooperative."

FRAPRU is presenting the following demands to the parties running in the October 3 election:

- the creation of 50,000 social housing units in five years, through cooperatives, NPOs and housing offices;

- the financing of all social housing already set for several years under the AccèsLogis program, but still awaited, despite the promise of the outgoing government (which only delivered one-third);

- the implementation of a global housing policy based on the right to housing, the development and protection of social housing and better protection of tenants' rights; and

- that funds invested in housing development be exclusively reserved for social housing.

A few days after the election was called, TML spoke with Laflamme, who emphasized the importance that housing rights organizations place on social housing. She said:

"As we can see, the housing crisis is part of the concerns of the population of Quebec, especially the rising cost of rent. If we are to have any hope of getting out of this housing crisis, and if low- and modest-income tenants are to have any hope of getting out of the dead end in which they are currently caught, we must make ambitious commitments, and these commitments must be about social housing outside the private market.

"We are currently seeing a shift from social housing to affordable housing as we hear that social housing is allegedly equal to subsidized housing. This actually opens the door to passing off aid to the private sector as social housing.

"Social housing is housing outside the private market, collectively owned housing, on which no one makes a profit. It can be public housing, cooperative housing or non-profit housing.

"The introduction of a new program, the Quebec Affordable Housing Program, which finances private owners as well as non-profit bodies, makes this change in vocabulary even more problematic. Privatization of housing assistance comes with this, with not informing how many of these units will actually be social, that is, outside the private market.

"Meanwhile, the AccèsLogis program, which for 25 years exclusively financed social housing in Quebec, is being abandoned. This system has been underfunded."

In conclusion, Laflamme called for a mass mobilization during the election campaign. The Quebec City demonstration on September 16 calling for solutions to the housing crisis was a part of this.

"We invite tenants to make their voices heard during the campaign. Already people are speaking out in various media. They remind us that rents are too high, that social housing is what is needed.

"I also want to say in conclusion that we must not fall into the trap of income tax cuts that some parties announced in the first days of the campaign. These cuts will not put more money in the pockets of low-income households and billions of dollars will be lost. A $2 billion tax cut means 12,000 social housing units per year that could have been built. We have the means. It's a question of political choice."

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 24 - October 3, 2022

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