Coalition calls on Quebec to help house tornado victims

A coalition of affordable housing agencies in the Outaouais is asking the Quebec government to invoke emergency measures to help residents who were displaced by the Sept. 21 tornadoes.

Nearly 1,700 Gatineau residents displaced by last week's violent storm

A man and woman hold each other as they survey the damage in Gatineau's Mont-Bleu neighbourhood following a powerful tornado on Sept. 21, 2018. (Lorian Bélanger/Radio-Canada)

A coalition of affordable housing agencies in the Outaouais is asking the Quebec government to invoke emergency measures to help residents who were displaced by the Sept. 21 tornadoes.

As of Thursday, nearly 1,700 Gatineau residents had registered with the Canadian Red Cross for emergency assistance. They're currently living in temporary accommodation with friends and family, in hotels or at a temporary shelter set up in the gymnasium of the Centre Pere Arthur Guertin recreation complex.

We're questioning how we're going to be able to help, in the long term, the housing situation for these people.- Iza Godbout, ROHSCO

But Iza Godbout, a team leader with ROHSCO, an umbrella group of 50 affordable housing agencies in the Outaouais, believes many of those residents will eventually need to find new homes.

"The Red Cross is doing an amazing job in terms of the emergency response," Godbout said. "We're questioning how we're going to be able to help, in the long term, the housing situation for these people."

Godbout said the various agencies involved in aiding the victims are struggling to coordinate their efforts.

"There's a lack of coordination. There's still not an action plan to respond to the needs of the population in the coming weeks and months," added Godbout.

Iza Godbout, a team leader with ROHSCO, says many residents from the Mont-Bleu area will need extra financial assistance to secure housing following the Sept. 21 tornado that ripped through their neighbourhood. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Few available units

Godbout pointed out that Mont-Bleu, a neighbourhood with many rental units in triplexes, suffered the heaviest damage. The area was home to a large population of low-income earners, including single mothers and immigrant families who rely of affordable housing, she said.

Of the 1,686 housing units that were damaged in Gatineau, many are in Mont-Bleu and have either been marked for demolition, or are in need of major repairs.

Godbout and other affordable housing advocates used a news conference Thursday to point out that there are only 800 available rental units in all of Gatineau, and many are too expensive for the displaced residents.

Representatives from nine affordable housing groups in the Outaouais banded together Thursday to call on the Quebec provincial government to provide funding for emergency housing. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

The group is asking the Quebec government for emergency financial assistance for those people.

"That way we can relocate these people into units that may cost more, but the tenants would be compensated with subsidies," Godbout said.

In addition, the coalition is calling for money to help the tornado victims store their belongings while they wait for a permanent or semi-permanent solution to their housing situation.

"If not, a lot of them are going to be faced with having to leave their belongings there and start all over," Godbout said.

CBC was unable to obtain the government's response to the coalition's proposal.

Gatineau's Mont-Bleu neighbourhood, one of the hardest-hit areas in last week's storm, was home to many low-income families. (Max Paris/CBC)