Housing crisis amid a pandemic: Parc-Ex residents call for pause on evictions

With evictions resuming next month, a local community group fears people will be left on the street.

With evictions resuming, community group fears people will be left on the street

Parc Extension resident Mohammad Suleman (right) has been issued an eviction notice for the apartment he has been living in for 15 years. In two weeks, the province's rental board will begin to enforce decisions made earlier this year. (Valeria Cori-Manocchio/CBC)

With Quebec's moratorium on evictions set to be lifted next month, residents of Montreal's Parc-Extension neighbourhood are worried the city's tight housing market could leave them with nowhere to go.

A caravan of cars and bicycles organized by the Comité d'Action de Parc-Extension drove through the neighbourhood Saturday to call for all evictions to continue to be paused.

"There's very little in the way of decent affordable housing available," said Amy Darwish, a community organizer with the group.

"There was already a housing crisis before the pandemic.… We're genuinely worried that many tenants may find themselves on the streets."

Starting July 6, decisions rendered by the province's rental board before March 1 can be enforced. More recent decisions can be enforced as of July 20.

Mohammad Suleman received an eviction notice earlier this year from his landlord. After living in his apartment for 15 years, he says the building's owner wants to renovate and rent out the apartment to students at the new Université de Montréal campus in neighbouring Outremont.

"I don't know what to do now," he said at the demonstration. He lives in the three-bedroom apartment with his wife and four children.

With Montreal's vacancy rate at a 15-year low, three-bedroom apartments are scarce. When Suleman does find an available apartment, it costs triple what he pays now — $680 per month.

A caravan of cars and bicycles drove through Parc-Extension Saturday to demand that the moratorium on evictions be extended. (Valeria Cori-Manocchio/CBC)

A decision hasn't been made in his case yet, but with his landlord expecting him out by July 1, he's worried about what might happen now that the rental board is resuming activities.

"I'm so worried that I couldn't sleep at night," he said.

Before the pandemic, housing advocacy groups were already prepared for a crisis on moving day.

But with Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension being one of the boroughs hardest hit by COVID-19, Darwish said the pandemic is making a difficult situation even worse.

In addition to pausing all evictions, the group wants more investment in social housing and for the Quebec government to convert its rental loans program — announced as part of emergency measures during the pandemic — to grants.

"We find it unacceptable that lower income tenants are being forced into debt," Darwish said.

With files from Valeria Cori-Manocchio

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