Evictions on the rise as Montreal's vacancy rate hits 15-year low

Michelle Tompkins and her husband want to fight the repossession, but they're also looking at other apartments. She says many units in the area are out of their price range, and with a three-year-old son, the family is on edge.

Advocates want repossessions blocked before a 'crisis' comes on moving day

Michelle Tompkins has doubts that her landlord's son is really taking over her family's apartment. With her own three-year-old, she's worried that she won't be able to find an affordable place to live. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Housing advocates say parts of Montreal are seeing a spike in eviction letters and repossession notices for rental units.

With the city's vacancy rate at a 15-year low, that's raising concerns for moving day.

"We are worried about the situation for the first of July," said Maxime Roy-Allard, spokesperson for Quebec's coalition of housing committees. "All those people who are being evicted right now will have a really hard time finding a new place."

Quebec law allows landlords to evict tenants in order to subdivide, substantially enlarge or change the use of a dwelling. Units can also be repossessed by owners for family use.

The housing coalition says tenants in central Montreal neighbourhoods are being hit hardest, including the Plateau, Villeray and La Petite-Patrie.

Last moving day, 94 households in Montreal hadn't found a new place to live, and dozens had to be temporarily housed by the city.

"If the Quebec government doesn't act quickly and give Montreal resources to help to solve the crisis, we might face the same situation, or even worse, this year," Roy-Allard said.

'We have never seen these numbers before'

At the Petite Patrie Housing Committee, staff say that last year, a few people would come into the office or call per day to ask for help with an eviction or repossession case.

This year, there are about 10 each day.

Community organizer Martin Blanchard says the situation hasn't been this bad in 20 years.

"We have never seen these numbers before," he said. "We're under a lot of stress right now."

Community organizer Martin Blanchard, left, says housing availability in Montreal is the worst it's been in 20 years. (Matt D'Amours/CBC)

The committee has a stack of roughly 200 cases, including one belonging to Michelle Tompkins. She says her family is facing a repossession of their La Petite-Patrie apartment, so her landlord's son can live there.

But Tompkins has doubts that will end up happening.

"Will the son be there three months from now? Or will he have gotten a job in Ottawa, and the rent's gone up, and so some other tenants move in?"

Tompkins and her husband want to fight the repossession, but they're also looking at other apartments. She says many units in the area are out of their price range, and with a three-year-old son, the family is on edge.

"I try to just put it aside when my kid comes home," Tompkins said. "But when he goes to bed, it's hard to sleep at night, because you're wondering where you're going to live. You're crying, you're stressed — you don't know what to do."

City preparing for moving day

Housing committees in the Plateau-Mont-Royal and Ville-Marie boroughs told CBC News they're also seeing more eviction and repossession cases than normal.

Last week, it was announced that Montreal's vacancy rate dropped from 1.9 per cent in 2018 to 1.5 per cent in 2019. Coupled with the influx of evictions and repossessions, housing advocates say this could spell disaster on moving day.

"[It] looks like a season where there will be hundreds of tenants that will have no lease — no apartments," said Blanchard.

"There will be many tenants who will have to move out of town, or at the periphery of town."

Montreal's executive committee member in charge of housing, Robert Beaudry, says the city is doing what it can to help.

He says funding has been doubled for the city's municipal housing office, which helps people find apartments, and more social housing is on the way. Montreal will also have temporary housing at the ready on moving day.

But with July 1 on the horizon, Beaudry says the city needs more funding to invest in housing.

"Municipal is there for the situation, but we need provincial and federal," said Beaudry. "If nothing is done from other levels of government, it's going to be an emergency."

Amid what it calls a housing crisis, Quebec's coalition of housing committees is calling on the province to prohibit evictions for subdivisions, enlargements or changes in use. It also wants a moratorium on repossessions in areas where the vacancy rate is below three per cent.


Matt D'Amours


Matt D'Amours is a journalist at CBC Montreal.


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