Editorial: Affordable housing is a right, not a privilege

Affordable housing has become increasingly more inaccessible in Montreal and the people responsible for fixing this sit idly by. Graphic Carl Bindman

It’s no secret that inflation rates in Montreal have skyrocketed in recent years.

The housing crisis that the city is currently facing, however, is in a whole other ballpark.

The ripple effects offset by COVID-19 unveiled the city’s urgent need for more affordable housing units; effects including renovictions, unsanitary living conditions, or lack of vacancy. 

According to Quebec’s Landlord Association, the vacancy rate in 2020 was 1.5 per cent in the Greater Montreal region—the lowest it's ever been in 15 years. In 2021, the rate rose to 2.7 per cent—an increase of 1.2 per cent. 

This increase is merely a distraction from the real crisis at hand. While it appears that there are now more housing units available in the city, they become unobtainable because of hiked rent prices and greedy landlords in the private sector. 

Unsurprisingly, social housing is no longer a municipal issue. In fact, several provincial regions have declared states of emergency following a shortage in available units, including Gatineau, Sherbrooke, and Quebec City.

With the municipal elections well underway, we now turn towards our fellow candidates to seek aid. 

Whether it’s their pledges to build 60,000 social housing units in the next 10 years or 50,000 units in the next four years, expectations are low. After all, what more can our municipal governments do when provincial leaders won’t lend a helping hand?

The Coalition Avenir du Québec’s stance on the subject remains unchanged. According to Andrée Laforest, Quebec’s housing minister, the province is not facing a housing crisis. Needless to say, the CAQ’s actions–or lack of– speak for themselves.

Time and again, we’ve borne witness to politicians’ performative bureaucracy. The performance, however, is often at the expense of Montreal’s most vulnerable communities, some of which include low-income earners and the unhoused population. Instead, the former are left with more questions, fewer answers, and—worst of all—bigger problems.

As we speak, 24,000 tenants are on the waiting list for subsidized housing in Montreal, and the CAQ government has no intentions to fund additional units. In short, the very government we rely on has clearly turned its back on us.

In response to their lack of responsibility, students, tenants, and activists alike continue to protest against the government’s failure to handle the housing crisis. In response to the CAQ’s neglect, housing committees have taken it upon themselves to assume the responsibilities that provincial officials have failed to pass on.

Housing in itself isn’t a privilege; it’s a fundamental human right. It’s about time our province made good on that promise.