Housing Rights Organizations Speak Out

Since the end of March, various advocacy organizations have proposed concrete measures to help tenant households unable to pay the next few months' rent. They have not accepted Premier Legault's response asking that landlords be "understanding" towards tenants who could not pay their rent on April 1 nor will not be able to do so on May 1 either. Such arrangements cannot be left in the hands of individuals, as there are many numbered companies in the real estate business that would be reluctant about waiting for rent payments, they say. They are calling upon the government to take action.

The Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU), which has been active for over 40 years in defence of the right to housing, has put forward the following demands for Quebec government action:

- prohibit any eviction attempt as a result of non-payment of rent for April 2020 (as well as for each additional month declared as a health emergency);

- more broadly, suspend all hearings at the Régie du logement (rental board) as well as the enforcement of decisions leading to the eviction of tenants, until confinement measures are lifted and tenants are again able to pay their rent;

- extend by one month the period available to tenants to respond to their lease renewal notice;

- consider that all existing leases be extended for a period corresponding to at a minimum the duration of the health emergency;

- establish an emergency rent supplement program for low-income tenant households.

Regarding the federal government, FRAPRU goes on to say that "For its part, the Trudeau government should:

- establish a special emergency fund to assist tenants unable to pay all or part of their rent;

- provide the money needed for the repair of existing social housing units funded in the past by (the federal) government that are currently boarded up because of the state of their disrepair."

The federation of Quebec seniors FADOQ, which represents more than 535,000 people over the age of 50, also expressed its concerns on April 3 about the rent increases imposed on seniors living in private seniors' residences (RPPs). It is calling for "all rent increase notices to be postponed to a later date [and] that no incidental fees be charged to seniors living in RPPs related to preventive measures to curb the spread of COVID-19."

"We've received numerous reports from our members about this. [...] The current situation means that tenants cannot get in-person assistance from CAAPs [Quebec complaint support and accompaniment centres], said FADOQ Network President Gisèle Tassé-Goodman.

On April 1, a letter signed by 34 lawyers and law students published in the newspaper Le Droit stressed that the defence of human dignity is at the heart of these demands:

"For the reasons listed and in light of elementary considerations of human dignity, we, the undersigned jurists, lawyers and law students, are asking for a cancellation of rents directly affected by the health crisis, at least for April and May 2020, as well as material or financial assistance measures that will allow everyone -- tenants and landlords alike -- to provide themselves with the goods necessary for living and so that they are not penalized at the end of the crisis as a result of having cumulatively defaulted on payments."

"We feel that it would be advantageous for the context to be used for the emergence of lasting and sustainable solutions to a housing crisis and the chronic precariousness of tenants that predates the pandemic. Rising to the occasion also means showing political courage and laying the foundations for a fairer society in the long term," the lawyers, jurists and law students added.

This article was published in

Number 22 - April 17, 2020

Article Link:
Housing Rights Organizations Speak Out


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