Montreal's mayor says housing money in Quebec budget isn't enough

Premier François Legault says Montreal needs to show it can use the money already in the system to complete social housing projects before Quebec will give it more.

Budget allocates money for new affordable housing, not new social housing

Woman at podium moving her hands.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante held a news conference on Wednesday, March 22 where she decried the lack of money allocated to housing in Quebec's latest budget. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC)

The premier of Quebec and the mayor of Montreal are butting heads over the amount of money allocated to housing in the provincial budget.

François Legault and Valérie Plante presented duelling visions of Quebec's housing situation on Wednesday morning, the day after the CAQ government presented its 2023-24 budget. 

The budget committed $1 billion to "improve housing affordability," including $300 million over five years to build 1,500 affordable housing units.

But, at a news conference, Plante said the money wasn't enough — and didn't address a lack of new social housing units. 

"The money announced yesterday, for us, is vastly insufficient," Plante said. "The government of Quebec is making a choice to ignore the housing crisis." 

Affordable housing units are available at what the market considers an affordable rate and respond more to the needs of the middle class, Plante said, while social housing is based on a percentage of a person's income and helps lower-income and more marginalized people, whom she accused the government of neglecting. 

Plante said the money in the budget was sufficient to help cover rising expenses, including construction costs and inflation, on some social housing projects that the city is already working on, but she was critical that the government wasn't investing in any new social housing. 

Since it was first elected, the CAQ has consistently made social housing less of a priority, Plante said, even as housing costs have climbed, putting pressure on lower-income and marginalized people who can no longer afford rent.

"We see the needs. There are more people in the shelters," she said. "When we say … that failing to invest in new social housing units is a problem, it's for those reasons."

City needs 'to speed up': Legault

But Legault countered by saying the city was moving too slowly and failing to build housing with money that was already invested. 

"The challenge is really to speed up the construction of housing, to use the money that was already there, to use the money we're adding and eventually we will add more when we are able to build [housing]," he said. 

It takes four years for the city to build housing with money provided by the Quebec government, Legault said, and some projects are mired in a slow municipal process. Until the city shows that it can build housing faster, the government will be loath to allocate more funds, Legault said. 

"We have to work together with the city of Montreal and other municipalities to accelerate," he said. "When we are able to do so we'll be able to add money in the next few years, but right now we really have a problem."

Plante said the city was forming a team to meet and discuss how the city could speed up the building process, but she said the city was already doing its part and by failing to invest in new social housing, the province was neglecting it when they could be improving it. 

"Can we improve processes? Of course," she said. "But we can't throw the baby out with the bathwater."


Matthew Lapierre is a digital journalist at CBC Montreal. He previously worked for the Montreal Gazette and the Globe and Mail. You can reach him at