For several years now, the price of houses and rental units has been soaring to astronomical heights. This phenomenon can now be observed in both urban and rural areas.
The Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec (RCLALQ) surveyed the average cost of rent as advertised on the Kijiji digital advertising platform, and according to this study, rates rose by 26 per cent between 2021 and 2023. In comparison, the consumer price index rose by 11.6 per cent over the same period. Renting a 4½-room apartment in Quebec now averages above $1,500 per month. The consequences of these increases mainly impact low-income earners in terms of their health, while increasing their risk of homelessness.
A recent study by Deloitte Canada that examined the link between community housing and economic productivity in Quebec and Canada showed that community housing is not only a social good, but also an economic necessity. Community housing refers to affordable housing units that are managed by non-profit organizations, cooperatives, or municipalities. In Quebec, community housing represents around 5.5 per cent of the total housing stock, which falls below the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average of 7 per cent.
Community housing can influence productivity in several ways. For example, housing that is too expensive can drive workers to accept jobs that are not consistent with their specialization or skills. Housing that is either too expensive or overcrowded can lead to poor living conditions, which can influence workers’ skill level. The amount of income spent on housing costs rather than employment-related investments such as training, can also negatively impact productivity. Companies that must provide housing to attract workers might be forced to reduce their investments and development. On the other hand, a supportive and accessible neighbourhood can influence well-being and labour-market opportunities.
The Deloitte study estimates that if Quebec increased its share of community housing to 7 per cent of the housing stock by 2030, which is the equivalent of adding 79,071 units, productivity would rise from 5.9 per cent to 9.7 per cent and GDP could balloon from $20.6 billion to $33.5 billion. Such growth would also not add to inflation, as productivity gains increase the economy’s capacity for growth. By extension, in the Haut-Saint-Laurent region, which represents 0.26 per cent of Quebec’s population, we would need to build 28 additional units to achieve this growth.
More than ever, all levels of government and municipalities need to implement solutions to develop community housing projects for the well-being of their populations. With these new arguments in hand, we hope that local, regional, and national authorities will act and invest accordingly.
CDC du Haut-Saint-Laurent