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Housing advocates call for Quebec to speed up construction

Montreal housing advocates say plans to renovate Habitations Boyce-Viau, a social housing complex near the Olympic Stadium, and others like it, aren’t nearly enough to address the urgent need for low-rent housing, known as HLMs.

“Right now in Montreal you have 25,000 people waiting for HLMs,” explained Patricia Viannay, coordinator for the Federation of Low-Rent Housing Tenants of Quebec.

She and others fighting for tenants argue that people who are waiting have little chance of getting a space, so the provincial government needs to speed up the construction of new buildings. Last summer the CAQ announced the plans to renovate low-rent housing in the province.

“There’s $2.2 billion for renovations of HLM,” Quebec housing minister France-Élaine Duranceau pointed out.

Good, say advocates, but they insist there should also be a focus on densification at places like the three-storey Boyce-Viau building.

“We think we should add a floor because we are in desperate need of social housing,” Viannay pointed out.

According to them that would add 70 housing units to this site alone. Duranceau said they are taking steps to build more social housing adding,  saying, “We announced $1.8 billion last November to  build 8,000 units, so that’s more housing.”

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Housing advocates and critics are encouraging the government to densify rather than start with an empty lot.

“When you increase the number of units on the same lot, obviously it decreases the price per unit,” Quebec Liberal Party housing critic reasoned. Furthermore, she added, the 8,000 units that the CAQ has committed to building are woefully inadequate as people are being forced to live on the streets.

“They don’t have anywhere else to live, so we really have to make sure that all the units that we can build or renovate are done as fast as possible,” she said.

Advocates like Viannay want the Quebec government to finance up to 20,000 low-rent housing units over the next five years.

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