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Canada

Tenants’ rights group denounces lack of affordable housing in Montreal

A Montreal-based tenants’ rights group led a demonstration on Saturday at the Genesis Project community centre in the Cote-des-Neiges neighbourhood to protest a housing shortage, which it blames partly on the condo boom, real estate speculation and short-term rentals spearheaded by Airbnb.

The Front d’action populaire en reamenagement urbain (FRAPRU) says it’s focused on the plight of low-income renters ahead of Quebec’s annual moving day on July 1.

FRAPRU spokeswoman Veronique Laflamme says it’s Montreal’s worst housing shortage in 14 years, adding that since January, 161 households in the metropolitan area have used housing assistance services set up by the Montreal Municipal Housing Office. Twenty of those families have still not found accommodation for July 1.

READ MORE: As Montreal booms, city’s reputation for affordable apartments takes a hit

The demonstration comes after the city introduced a bylaw that requires developers to reserve 20 per cent of their new units to social housing. For each real estate project, 10 to 15 per cent will have to be affordable housing units for low-income earners. Developers will also have the option to make an equivalent financial contribution to the city instead.

“The bylaw is done in such a way that there is more incentive to cede land for social housing or to deliver turnkey for social housing,” said Craig Sauvé, Montreal executive committee councillor.

Municipal Affairs Minister Andree Laforest said last month that the housing situation in Quebec is currently well controlled, with vacancy rates incomparable to those from the 2000s.

Laflamme says the minister does not grasp the seriousness of the situation in Montreal and Gatineau, dubbing it a housing crisis. FRAPRU says about 87,000 households in Montreal spend more than half their income on rent.

The city promised to build 6,000 social housing units and 6,000 affordable housing units during its mandate. Sauvé adds that with the new bylaw — which is set to take effect in January 2021 — another 600 social housing units will be built per year.

Despite these numbers, FRAPRU wants the Quebec government to fund 50,000 social housing units across the province in the next five years — including 22,230 in Montreal.

READ MORE: Montreal to propose new rules to increase affordable housing

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation numbers show a 1.9 per cent vacancy rate in Montreal and 0.7 per cent rate in Gatineau, where flooding and tornadoes have put increasing pressure on the rental market.

— With files from the Canadian Press and Global News’ Tim Sargeant

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