Jacques Boissinot The Canadian Press The Minister responsible for Housing, France-Élaine Duranceau, last March
Several hundred people demonstrated on Saturday in Montreal to oppose Bill 31 on housing, which would allow owners to more easily refuse lease assignments.
Equipped with signs and whistles or instruments, the demonstrators gathered at midday, despite the gray weather, in the Parc-Extension district.
“It has been demonstrated repeatedly for a long time that the problem is abusive rent increases between changes of tenants. At the time of the move, the owners take advantage of this to circumvent the law, and make abusive rent increases,” Martin Blanchard, co-coordinator of the Regroupement of housing committees and tenant associations of Quebec (RCLALQ), declared on the microphone, before the crowd begins the march.
The demonstration took place when, earlier this week, the article concerning the assignment of lease in Bill 31 was adopted during the detailed study of the bill, article by article, in parliamentary committee.
“The only tool that worked”
“We are taking away from tenants the only tool that worked at all to calm things down,” lamented Mr. Blanchard. In addition to the RCLALQ, the Front for the Fight for Popular Real Estate (FLIP), as well as the Parc-Extension Action Committee took part in the organization of the event.
If Bill 31 is adopted, an owner will be able to refuse an assignment of lease for reasons other than serious ones. The Minister responsible for Housing, France-Élaine Duranceau, defended herself this week, arguing that if an owner refuses to transfer the lease, the lease will simply be terminated. The tenant will therefore be free to leave.
She insisted that the transfer of lease is not a rent control measure and that all the rules for setting prices will continue to apply.
The organizations that organized the demonstration demanded the resignation of Minister Duranceau on Saturday. They also plead for “immediate rent freezes and the socialization of all new housing”.
“With each article, we try to see how we can improve the situation of tenants in a context of housing crisis. The bill is not finished, and we do not know if we will manage to finish it this week. I have several amendments, and so do the other opposition groups,” said the deputy for Québec solidaire (QS), Andrés Fontecilla, during the demonstration. The parliamentarian, who is participating in the detailed study of the bill, said he did not know if the bill will be adopted by Friday.
“The situation is serious, the rents do not stop not increase, it leads to practices like renovictions, it leads to more homelessness, it leads to the impoverishment of lower-income households, and also middle-class households,” he declared, alongside of her colleague MP for the Verdun constituency, Alejandra Zaga Mendez.
Several tenants took part in Saturday's demonstration, worried about their fate in the context of the housing crisis.
“For me it is an issue because I have always (behind my head the idea) that it could happen to me to be ousted. It’s not reassuring to know that there isn’t much recourse as a tenant,” said Julia Stirling. The tenant, who is also a social worker, says she sees how the current crisis is having an impact on the population.
“I'm really enraged to see how the government doesn't care about inequalities,” she confided.
Annie Charbonneau, worker in shelters that help women in difficulty , particularly victims of domestic violence, said they saw the consequences of the housing crisis in the context of their employment.
“There are more and more customers, we are less and less able to serve, and there are people who have never been on the street, who have never been homeless, but because of new rent increases, they find themselves homeless,” she explained.
As for women victims of domestic violence, “we often see a woman who returns to a violent partner » lack of housing, added Ms. Charbonneau.
“Considering that 40% of the population is renting today, to crush or roll back the rights of these people , in my opinion it is unacceptable,” said another protester, Simon Bilodeau.
Miet Verhauwaert, who also took part in the demonstration, said he was able to pay his rent currently, but that 'she fears the day she will have to move.
“What is happening today with rents is ridiculous. I'm afraid, I live alone, and my current rent is still okay, but I'm afraid as soon as I have to move that I'll no longer be able to pay the rent myself,” she said.
With information from Thomas Laberge