The Gleaner

Quebec housing crisis hits home in the Haut-Saint-Laurent

With the current economic state of the province, the housing crisis continues to get worse across Quebec. Recently, the Quebec government announced the introduction of Bill 31. According to the National Assembly’s statement, “The bill amends the Act to allow the Société d’habitation du Québec to offer services for compensation and with a view to self-financing to stakeholders in the housing sector.”

This bill makes it more difficult for tenants to transfer leases to new tenants, meaning that if a tenant leaves a lease, landlords can increase rent without having to respect rent-increase rules. This bill also allows owners of buildings built less than five years ago to raise rents without any sort of limit. And it fails to include anything prohibiting the eviction of tenants from their homes to create short-term rentals such as AirBnBs.

There has been some backlash surrounding this law, particularly in regard to how it affects tenants and the cost of housing. The Fédération québécoise des organismes communautaires famille (FQOCF) recently issued a press release explaining how much of this law will affect Quebec families seeking housing. It requested that the government consider four modifications to the bill that take tenants and families into consideration.

First of all, it asks to encourage private investment in the rental housing sector by offering financial and tax incentives to help create a better market for tenants, while providing benefits such as tax credits for landlords who create more affordable housing. It also requests more transitional measures for families in vulnerable situations as a way for them to cope with skyrocketing housing and cost of living expenses in recent months. It is also calling for a huge reinvestment in programs for social and community housing. Finally, it asks the government to provide more support for community organizations whose goal is to offer support on a day-to-day basis for families who are struggling financially.

Rémi Pelletier, the director of the CDC du Haut-Saint-Laurent, says the crisis is affecting individuals directly in the Haut-Saint-Laurent. “We hear regularly about families that are coming to us looking for housing; it’s a major issue,” he says. There are many factors which contribute to the costs increasing so much, including construction materials being significantly more expensive right now; the cost to hire builders has also been affected by inflation; and there is simply a shortage of available housing.

“We understand the need from the perspective of the owner, but there is an imbalance that leans too strongly towards the raising of prices,” Pelletier says. “Unfortunately, the reality is that the citizen wants the prices to stay low, but their reality isn’t always taken into consideration,” he adds.

He explains that “40 per cent of families in this region spend over 30 per cent of their revenue on their housing.” But on top of this, “Almost ten per cent are paying up to 50 per cent, and two per cent pay up to 80 per cent of their revenue toward housing. These numbers are very concerning.”

Besides this, 9.2 per cent of housing in the Haut-Saint-Laurent needs major repairs, according to a study released by Statistics Canada in 2021. The Institut de recherche et d’informations socioéconomiques (IRIS) recently released a study that shows the cost of living is higher in Huntingdon than in Montreal. The livable income in Huntingdon for a single-person household is $38,404 versus $32,252 in Montreal; $50,102 for a single parent with one child in Huntingdon versus $44,187 in Montreal; and $77,017 for a two-parent home with two children in Huntingdon versus $71,161 in Montreal.

Right now, Pelletier says, “What we recommend is not leaving where you currently live. Each time someone leaves, it makes the prices go up. … That’s the biggest issue with Bill 31.” If you are currently looking for housing, he recommends contacting the Comité Logement Beauharnois, which has an office in Huntingdon.

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