Protest calls out government inaction towards housing crisis

Hundreds march through Old Port demanding municipal candidates take action

About 250 protesters gathered to denounce government inaction towards the housing crisis. Photo Ora Bar

On Oct. 7, around 250 people protested in favour of social housing and against evictions and demolitions. 

Protesters repeated that Montreal is in the middle of a housing crisis and chants reflecting these themes had been written and distributed to the public prior to the start of the march.

Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU), in collaboration with Réseau d’aide aux personnes seules et itinérantes de Montréal and Le Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec, organized this protest that started at Square Victoria-OACI station and ended at city hall. 

“Valérie pis Denis, occupez-vous des sans-logis!” called out the crowd, referring to Mayor Valérie Plante and Denis Coderre, the former mayor of Montreal, both of whom are running to be reelected this year.

Catherine Lussier, community organizer for FRAPRU, and one of the protest organizers, explained how the organization often sees tenants getting evicted. Some end up on the streets without any support, and others suffer from harassment from landlords.

“Montreal has the responsibility to do better to protect the tenants and to answer their basic needs,” said Lussier.

Between 40 to 50 tenants in Côte-des-Neiges received eviction notices in August. Photo Ora Bar

FRAPRU is a nation-wide non-profit organization that believes housing is a fundamental right and should be accessible to everyone. They work with tenants who have urgent housing needs as well as with homeless people.

Organizations from over eight boroughs ranging from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce to Parc-Extension and Pointe-Saint-Charles came together to urge governments to ensure better protection for tenants, especially concerning renovictions and rooming houses, as several protesters mentioned.

According to a study conducted earlier this year, rent has increased over 4 per cent from 2019 to 2020. This is the highest annual rent increase in 18 years.

“Governments need to invest more in social housing because it’s something we really need in Montreal, especially in our borough,” said Ashley Marie Arbis, project manager for LogisAction NDG. 

Arbis spoke about long waitlists for the few social housing projects available in NDG. She added that each organization knows the needs of their respective neighbourhoods, but the only thing they lack is government funding in order to implement social housing projects.

Back in August of this year, between 40 to 50 tenants in Côte-des-Neiges received eviction notices.

Zara Simeonova, who lives in Côte-des-Neiges, was evicted twice from her apartment. Cogir Immobilier, her real estate company, accused her and her husband of not paying their rent on time. However, her husband has kept every bill he has paid for the past five years. These bills prove that the couple never missed a single payment.

Simeonova and her husband were asked to go to the Régis du logement twice. The first time, they proved they had the right to stay in their apartment. However, the second time, Simeonova recalled the judge yelling at them.

“The reason that they do these tactics is because we’re paying one of the lowest rents in our area. We are paying $625 for a two and a half and right now, the rent for our area is $1,200. So you can imagine why they want to evict us,” said Simeonova.

Charles Castonguay from l’Association des locataires de Villeray mentioned how the candidates running in the municipal election have talked about affordable housing, but they have yet to talk about social housing, which is something low-income individuals desperately need.

“The people we work with really need social housing, housing adapted to their income, and we unfortunately cannot count on our government representatives right now to provide us with this, so this is why we are here today,” said Castonguay.