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Montreal affordable housing crisis

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It is not easy to find housing in Montreal, where the vacancy rate has reached its lowest level in several years. The situation has turned the search for an apartment into a mad rush. It even threatens the city’s reputation for affordable rents, according to tenants’ rights advocates.

What Airbnb’s got to do with it?

An economist at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Francis Cortellino, said the vacancy rate had fallen to 1.9% in 2018. According to him, this situation is due to the mass arrival of non-permanent residents such as temporary workers, foreign students or refugees. This rate has declined even though the number of rental housing projects reached a record 10,000 last year.

A community organizer of the People’s Organization, Information and Consolidation Project (POPIR), Patricia Viannay, mentioned other factors. Her organization has seen an increase in the number of evictions for alleged major renovations, a means used by landlords to circumvent provincial eviction and rent increase rules. The renoviction neologism has even been invented because of this.

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She says that some landlords create housing shortages by not renting their apartments, adding that these some even prefer to leave a dwelling empty or rent it on Airbnb so that they can later raise the rent significantly.

POPIR is well-aware of the effects of gentrification in a neighbourhood. The community group had to move its penthouses after the new owner of the building where it had been located for 50 years increased the rent beyond its means.

Is Montreal, the next Vancouver?

Robert Beaudry, head of economic and commercial development, housing and design for the City of Montréal’s executive committee, pointed out that the City was aware of the pressure exerted on tenants. The municipal authorities have no intention of letting Montreal resemble Toronto or Vancouver, where the average rent exceeds $1300, as compared to $796 in the Quebec metropolis. Still, Montrealer’s marked almost a 10% increase on the rental market in 2019.

In recent months, the City has decided to limit short-term leases such as those proposed on the Airbnb site by tightening regulations. It has also put in place a plan to renovate aging buildings and has promised to create 12,000 new social and affordable housing units by 2021. This remains to be seen…

The future is now

There is a significant need for social housing in Montreal. It will never be too early to fix the situation when it is believed that nearly 100,000 people are paying too much for housing.

Until then, the problem will only get worse because of the current housing shortage. More and more families are finding themselves crammed into dwellings that are too small or must settle far from their roots.

By: Pascal DesLauriers – info@mtltimes.ca

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