Montreal aims to support renters as Moving Day approaches

When the sun sets on Quebec’s Moving Day, there are always people in Montreal who find themselves without a roof over their heads and the city’s administration wants the population to know it is there to help.

Those worried they may not have a place next month can call 311 for support

Mehmet Altun, a student at ETS, moved most of his belongings by public transit over the course of two weeks last year. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

When the sun sets on Quebec's Moving Day, there are always people in Montreal who find themselves without a roof over their heads. 

Last July 1, Montreal received about 800 calls from people with questions about how to find a place to live. That was double the year before and officials worry this year will be even worse.

Robert Beaudry, the city's executive committee member responsible for housing, said they get calls from all sorts of people — those who live alone, middle-class families and seniors.

They are often facing "renoviction," he said, a term housing advocates have coined to describe the ousting of tenants in the name of renovations as, under Quebec law, renters can be evicted if major renovations need to be done.

From there, the landlord can raise the rent significantly for the next tenant. Otherwise, landlords face caps on how much they can raise the rent each year.

Beaudry said the city has a responsibility to help. To that end, Montreal increased the annual budget of the its housing bureau, the Office municipal d'habitation de Montréal (OMHM), by $1 million. 

Working with about 15 partners throughout the city, the OMHM and Montreal will offer a range of services, including helping people find a new place and giving them space to store their belongings in the interim.

People who worry they will have no place to go next month are encouraged to dial 311 for assistance.

The annual tradition of moving on July 1 in Quebec always leads to a bit of chaos in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Clotilde Tarditi, Montreal's director of housing services, says those already living in vulnerable situations have been financially weakened by the pandemic.

And while the number of vacant apartments in Montreal has increased, most of them aren't affordable, she said.

That's why Montreal is asking the province for more funding so it can continue to build more affordable housing units.

Young families face obstacles

According to Véronique Laflamme, a spokesperson for the housing advocacy group FRAPRU, "rents have exploded in Montreal, and the rent for available housing is overpriced for a large portion of households."

Maxime Roy-Allard, a spokesperson for the a group representing tenants' associations, said it's particularly hard for young families as landlords are more welcoming to single people or couples.

"There is a lot of discrimination against people who have young children," he said. 

"For a family, finding large accommodations is really an obstacle course. Very few, large accommodations are available."