Montreal

Latest victim of gentrification in Saint-Henri? An anti-gentrification group

POPIR, a tenants’ rights group in the Montreal neighbourhood, says the building where the organization rents space has been sold, and the new owners plan to raise the rent to market value.

Tenants' rights group POPIR says it can no longer afford to rent space in the fast-changing neighbourhood

POPIR, a group devoted to defending tenants' rights, is leaving its office on Notre-Dame Street. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

A tenants' rights group in Montreal's Saint-Henri district says it has become a casualty of the very gentrification it has been fighting against. 

Sandrine Belley, a community organizer with POPIR, says the building where the organization rents space has been sold, and the new owners plan to raise the rent to market value.

POPIR's office is on Notre-Dame Street, near Place-Saint-Henri Metro station.

The streetscape has changed dramatically since the organization moved in 15 years ago. It's now dotted with upscale cafés, restaurants and boutiques.

Belley said POPIR's new landlord hopes to change the building's zoning and hike the rent.   

"We are not able to pay because we are a community organization," said Belley.

POPIR was founded in 1969 and has always been located in Saint-Henri, until now.

In its early days, POPIR focused on defending the rights of low-income Montrealers.

In 1989, the organization decided to devote itself to housing issues and continues to lobby against rising rents and help individual tenants defend their rights.

Belley said the group has found a new location in Little Burgundy, but she warns that what is happening to POPIR is a symptom of a larger problem in the district.

"The low-income tenants are being pushed out," said Belley, and there are fewer and fewer services for them.

"Often when we think of gentrification, we think it will bring services in the neighbourhood. But it's doing the opposite, actually."

There is no provincial law limiting rent increases on commercial leases.

The Southwest borough has been trying for years to pressure the provincial and federal government to pass legislation to help keep commercial rental rates down.

About the Author

Kate McKenna is a reporter with CBC Montreal. Email her at kate.mckenna@cbc.ca.

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