In the News July 12
Truth on the Ground in Quebec
Urgent Need for Pro-Social Solution to Housing Crisis
As expected, the housing crisis has hit the Quebec people with extreme severity this year, with at least 600 tenant households failing to sign a new lease by July 1, which is the traditional moving day.
“The hundreds of tenant households that are still without a home and all those that will be added in the days and weeks to come are indicators of a much deeper crisis that must be addressed quickly to avoid the repetition of such human tragedies year after year,” said Véronique Laflamme, spokesperson for the Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU), in her 22nd annual report issued July 2. “Based on the official figures provided by the emergency assistance services set up by the municipalities or the housing offices, at least 4,000 households have asked for help to put a roof over their heads this year. Of this number, at least 600 households are still being followed by an assistance service, and are housed either by cities or by relatives,” she added.
This is the situation in both large and small cities, in major centers and in the regions.
FRAPRU also believes that the number of people who failed to find a home is only a pale reflection of the extreme hardships that people experienced on July 1, 2022, with many households having to resort to renting an apartment that was too expensive, too small for their family or unsafe to live in. Others were helped out by their family or network, without contacting assistance services.
The organization denounces the CAQ government for not taking the housing crisis seriously since it was elected on October 1, 2018. It demands that the next government adopt structural measures to address the crisis in all its dimensions. It calls for an all-party commitment to deliver all the missing units in the AccèsLogis program and to fund 50,000 social housing units over five years in the form of low-income housing, rental housing cooperatives and housing managed by non-profit organizations. This project should also include a program to acquire rental buildings to remove them from speculation.
On the legislative front, FRAPRU demands that the parties commit to imposing mandatory control of all private rents, supported by a rent register. It demands that the parties amend the Civil Code to protect tenants more effectively against evictions of all types and to safeguard the rental housing stock. Finally, the organization insists that all these measures be part of a global housing policy based on the formal recognition of the right to housing.
A few days before July 1, Workers’ Forum spoke with Arnaud Duplessis-Lalonde, a community organizer with the Rosemont Housing Committee in Montreal. The committee is a member of the FRAPRU.
Arnaud gave examples that highlight the enormous difficulties that people face in finding housing.
“Our other national group, RCLALQ, the Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec, carried out a comparative study of what the government of Canada records as the average rent and what one actually finds when looking for housing. Every year, the CMHC, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, publishes a study on the actual state of the housing market. Figures on the average or median rent in each sector is part of the data it collects.
What the RCLALQ has revealed is that there is a difference of almost 50 per cent between the new posted rents and what the CMHC reports as the average rent. That’s a huge difference. What we’ve seen in Montreal, for example, is that the problem is not necessarily that there are no units available, but that they’re too expensive compared with people’s ability to pay, so they remain unrented. Landlords would rather leave units empty than lower the price to rent them. 
He criticized governments at all levels for treating housing as an instrument to subsidize private developers instead of serving the needs of tenant households.
“At the federal level, the most recent budget is not going to improve the situation for tenant households. A lot of money was invested in home ownership programs. However, one can see that the home ownership programs and so-called affordable housing programs based on subsidizing private landlords, promoted by the three levels of government (federal, Quebec and municipal), are not meeting the needs. Instead, they promote new funding models aimed rather at funding so-called affordable housing essentially by way of the private sector and access to home ownership, which does not meet the needs of people. The bulk of households have real housing needs that are not being met by these programs.
“We are talking here about social programs, not programs that are set up for and used by private developers which encourage them to resell or rent for a little less than the market price, which is already out of control.
“In short, for us the solution is rent control, and massive investments in social housing,” he concluded.
1. The report is Sans loi ni toit: Enquête sur le marché incontrôlé des loyers – Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec (RCLALQ) Juin 2022 (No Law and No Roof: Survey on the uncontrolled rent market – RCLALQ -June 2022.) For a third consecutive year, the RCLALQ compiled tens of thousands of rental ads on the Kijiji website and compared them with the average rent in Quebec as recorded by the CMHC. In its most recent report, it concludes that rental units were nearly 50 per cent more expensive than the average unit price in 2022, and that the gap with the CMHC data, which continues to increase in Montreal, is growing even faster outside the major urban centers. This means that moving to another region to find more affordable housing is no longer an option. As an emergency measure to correct the situation, RCLALQ is calling on the government to introduce mandatory rent control.
To read the report, available in French only, click here.
Workers’ Forum, posted July 12, 2022.