City of Montreal says there's help for those who can't find a home by July 1
At least 81 households in the city have yet to find a home for next month
Montreal officials say they want people to know that there's help available if they're worried they could end up homeless on Moving Day.
With a low vacancy rate in the city and skyrocketing costs in the rental market, many Montrealers have been struggling to get a lease signed for July 1, with many leases in Quebec ending on June 30.
"We know and expect that this year will be particularly difficult for many," said Benoit Dorais, vice-chair of Montreal's executive committee.
He said those struggling to secure a place for next month should call 311 as soon as possible to find out what their options are.
Montreal's municipal housing office, the Office municipal d'habitation de Montréal, can help refer people to social housing or to landlords who have yet to find tenants for July. It can also provide emergency housing for those who've exhausted all their options, he said.
"We will direct you to the right resources and walk you through this difficult time. We are prepared," Dorais said.
The housing office can also help tenants who are looking to store their belongings during their move.
It's already providing emergency assistance to 81 households who've yet to sign a lease for next month, said Vincent Brossard, the director of housing applications and the rent supplement program.
He wants landlords to know they can reach out to the city if they have any vacancies.
"We are looking for homes, particularly large ones," he said. "If any landlords have vacant apartments for July 1 that you haven't been able to fill, you can participate to offer yours up."
Over the past three years, the number of citizens reaching out to the office for help in finding a home for July 1 has tripled, Dorais said.
The cost of helping citizens in their search for affordable housing has more than doubled since then too, he said, going from $1.6 million in 2019 to $3.5 million this year.
"We have the money we need to respond to this and we are, but each year the situation is getting worse and each year our budget is going up," he said.
Dorais says the federal and provincial governments have been stalling on funding agreements that would allow for the construction of 1,200 units of social housing in the city.
The city has told both levels of government that it needs $270 million in funding over the next 10 years to build more social housing, he said. But since the creation of the National Housing Co-Investment Fund (NHCF) in 2018, only $30 million has been doled out.
"We are defending the affordability of our city with our heart and soul. Other levels of government must recognize that this serious problem will not go away on its own," Dorais said.
Last year more than 500 tenant households in the province found themselves without housing on July 1, the highest figure in 20 years. That included 128 households in Montreal.
'Nowhere else to go'
Both Dorais and the coalition of housing committees and tenants' associations of Quebec (RCLALQ) have been calling on the province to implement rent control.
The city of Montreal launched a rental price registry and a new certification program for landlords in February, which RCLALQ has criticized for not going far enough.
Under the program, landlords are only asked to report rent prices every five years, and then only if they own at least eight units, said Cédric Dussault, a spokesperson for the association.
"It shows that there's a problem when there's a change in tenants. When a tenant leaves, the rent hikes are pretty huge. They are totally out of control," he said Monday while on CBC's Daybreak. "That's where we are losing the battle on affordable housing."
Other cities in Quebec haven't been spared by the housing crisis either, with apartments in Granby, Gatineau and Trois-Rivières becoming increasingly unaffordable.
"It's really skyrocketing outside of large urban centres. Pretty much what it means is that there is nowhere else to go," Dussault said. "The problem is throughout Quebec."
Time for new approach: Opposition
The Opposition at city hall says it's time for Valérie Plante's Projet Montréal administration to try a new tack.
"We can see that the method used by the administration every year has not stopped the increase in households that need to be helped every July 1," said Aref Salem, head of Ensemble Montréal, in a news release. "We have to explore other ways of helping Montrealers."
Salem says the the city should work with community organizations to create a bank of at least 100 affordable apartments that can be available in July.
"We cannot expect different results when we take the same approach every year."