Seven years after moving family to Montreal, Parc-Ex resident fears they'll have to live on the street
With moratorium on evictions lifted, Mohammed Amfizguy is one of many awaiting rental board decisions
When he first immigrated to Montreal, Mohammed Amfizguy managed to find the perfect apartment for his growing family.
It's where he and his wife raised their three children; it's where those children leave for school every morning, and it's where they forged connections with their tightly woven community.
"My children go to school just two minutes from here, so they have all their friends over here. They're able to walk there alone safely," Amfizguy said in an interview Thursday.
But that may not be the case for much longer. Amfizguy is one of many Quebecers now waiting for a decision from the province's rental board, the Régie du logement, on whether he'll be forced out of his Parc-Extension home.
The Quebec government placed a moratorium on evictions last March because of the pandemic. It was lifted last week. As of July 6, decisions rendered by the rental board prior to March 1 can be enforced. More recent decisions can be enforced as of July 20.
Amfizguy said he received an eviction notice without any prior warning or discussion at the end of December.
The building had been sold two months earlier, and Amfizguy suspects the new owner was not satisfied with the rent the current tenants were paying.
"They want to renovate and do a change of vocation for the building. We don't know exactly what they mean by that," Amifzguy said.
"The only thing we know is they want to rent the apartments at a higher price because this is a really in-demand neighbourhood, especially with the Université de Montréal [campus]."
Amifzguy says he thinks his landlord wants to push his family out to make room for students who will be willing to pay higher rents.
Hoping to keep his children, who are between the ages of seven and 11, in the same school, Amfizguy has been scouring the neighbouhood for apartments but so far has found nothing that fits his budget.
"We can find a four-and-a-half but at $1,400, $1,500, $1600 instead of $600 or $700," he said.
Amfizguy moved to Montreal from Morocco with his family in 2013. He made the decision after several of his family members and friends had done the same, and he hoped to raise his children close to their extended family.
Now, if the rental board rules in favour of his landlord and approves the eviction, Amfizguy says he is afraid he may either have to leave the city behind or wind up living on the streets.
"We really don't know right now what we would do, what we can do. It's really a nightmare," he said.
"It's really unfair. The government has to find a solution for families like us. It's not just the rich that should have the right to live properly."
City's measures not enough, advocates say
Amifzguy is far from the only one having issues finding affordable housing.
According to social housing group FRAPRU, more than 370 families were left without a new lease on moving day this year.
While the City of Montreal enacted emergency measures for those who could not find a home come July 1, Maxime Roy-Allard, a spokesperson for Quebec's coalition of housing committees, says there's more to be done.
"We fear many people will just go elsewhere — further away from their family, from their friends, from their jobs," Roy-Allard said, "or they will wind up in an apartment in really bad shape."
Now that the moratorium on evictions has been lifted, Roy-Allard fears the city may soon see even more people without a place to live.
"Especially for evictions, non-payment evictions, many people have lost their revenue, have lost their jobs," Roy-Allard said.
"So they came into a situation of not being able to pay their rent."
Roy-Allard is calling on the city to put more pressure on the province to provide more social housing and rent controls.