Montreal Activists Call for Action on Housing Crisis
With less than a week to go before the end of the election campaign, housing advocate organizations and the People’s Action Front for Urban Renewal (FRAPRU) organized a protest in front of Justin Trudeau’s campaign office on Park Avenue in Montreal. On the day FRAPRU held its action, tenants from Trudeau’s riding were occupying his campaign office to express their opposition to the lack of commitments from the Liberals to improve the situation of tenant households with urgent housing needs.
FRAPRU Statement on the Situation
Montreal tenants are facing a serious housing crisis that is likely to continue if strong measures aren’t quickly put in place. In Villeray and Parc-Extension, neighbourhoods in Trudeau’s riding, the scarcity of rental units, the rapid rise in rents, real estate speculation and the increasing number of fraudulent evictions is making the situation very precarious for many tenant households. Many are no longer able to find housing in the neighbourhoods they’ve lived in for years. Even before the pandemic and the rent increases of recent years, 16,100 tenant households in the borough of Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension lived in unaffordable housing and 6,445 lived in housing that was too small. “The public health crisis exposed the serious physical and mental health consequences for tenants in Mr. Trudeau’s riding living in substandard or overcrowded housing, and in particular for the development of children and the safety of abused women. One would hope that this would lead to greater interest on his part, but it didn’t,” said Amy Darwish, coordinator with the Comité d’Action de Parc-Extension. “We can’t be satisfied with half-measures when faced with the magnitude of needs, either in Parc-Extension or in Villeray. Much more needs to be done to support low-income tenants in these two neighborhoods,” she added.
L’Association des Locataires de Villeray and the Comité d’Action de Parc-Extension are reproaching Trudeau for his indifference towards the difficult situations experienced by tenants in his riding and denouncing his lack of commitment to those in urgent need of housing. They point out that Liberal promises to improve access to home ownership do not address the situation. “Promising a way out of the crisis through access to property is an affront to tenants, who risk finding themselves on the street,” said Charles Castonguay, community organizer at the Association des Locataires de Villeray. “We already cannot rely on the private rental market to take care of low-income households. The response must be political, the State must take this on. This response requires social housing and we want clear commitments from Mr. Trudeau,” he insisted.
Since the beginning of the campaign, FRAPRU has been calling on the parties seeking to form the next government to make clear commitments to social housing. However, despite the many criticisms of the National Strategy it has put in place, the Liberal Party has not made a clear commitment to fund the development of new social housing in a targeted manner.
FRAPRU and its member groups note that one of the only references to tenant issues in the Liberal platform is to address “renovictions.” They point out that the measures needed to address these issues are under provincial jurisdiction. Even the promise of a surcharge for excessive rent increases would be difficult to achieve without a provincial lease registry to verify the veracity of claims.
However, funding social housing — which is a shared jurisdiction — would be a concrete way for the next government to fight the housing crisis, FRAPRU says. “Social housing is the only formula that is affordable in a sustainable way and that could significantly reduce the astronomical number of tenant households that have urgent needs,” said Catherine Lussier, an organizer at FRAPRU.
“Under the Liberals, Ottawa finally recognized the right to adequate housing in the National Housing Strategy Act adopted in 2019, but the measures proposed in the Liberal Platform, as in that of the Conservatives, do not give the impression that there is a will to defend this right” Catherine added. FRAPRU also denounces the opportunism of the two parties that are leading in the polls, which give the impression that they are concerned about housing affordability while ignoring the urgent needs of poorly housed tenant households.
FRAPRU and its member groups in Montreal are calling on the parties to commit to a recurring investment of $3 billion per year to fund new social housing. Such investments would allow the construction of 7,000 social housing units per year in Quebec, which has already been the case in the past. They would also contribute to a building 50,000 social housing units in 5 years, including 22,500 in Montreal, which FRAPRU is demanding from both levels of government.