Shortage of housing: another difficult summer in the Magdalen Islands

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Shortage of housing: another difficult summer in Îles-de-la-Madeleine

A study unveiled in August 2021 revealed that it would be necessary to build 200 new housing units within five years to reduce the deficit of rental units in the Magdalen Islands.

Since mid-May, around 50 residents who are afraid of ending up on the street have called on the Islands housing search assistance service. Tourist traffic, insularity and higher real estate prices complicate the process of finding accommodation in an archipelago where apartments are scarce.

Since the beginning of July, Madelinot fisherman Jonathan Nadeau has been living in a small trailer parked in his parents' yard in Fatima, with his wife and four children.

This is not a summer vacation, but forced camping. The Nadeau family is forced, for a fourth summer, to leave the house they rent for the rest of the year to make way for tourists.

We don't can't compete with tourists who rent homes for $1,000 a week, he says with resignation. I can't come up and say I'm going to put $4,000 a month into my summer when I just hit unemployment.

The six members of the Nadeau family live cramped in a trailer until they can return to the house they are renting in September.

The trailer he was able to find is not quite suitable for six people. We are not very comfortable, it is tight with all the toys, explains Mr. Nadeau. I made a wall to close off a bedroom to have some privacy.

“It's not very pleasant, but it's the price to pay to stay in the Islands with the family. I don't feel at home anymore.

— Jonathan Nadeau

On the island of Le Havre Aubert, the director of the Maison des jeunes l'Hav-nir had no choice but to use part of his office to store his personal belongings, while waiting to find permanent accommodation.

Moved to the Islands in January, Gabrielle Létourneau was forced this spring to leave the place where she had settled, for reasons beyond her control.

The director of the Maison des jeunes l'Hav-nir, Gabrielle Létourneau, predicts that she will have to move eight times this summer, before taking possession of accommodation in September.

Since the beginning of May, I have made my fourth move, she says.

The neo-Madelinian has managed to find accommodation, but it will not be available only from September. Until then, she can fortunately rely on her network of friends and contacts to benefit from a roof.

“It's definitely stressful. I sleep a week in one place, two weeks in another place. I don't even know how many different places I slept in. »

— Gabrielle Létourneau, director of the Maison des jeunes l'Hav-nir

A maximum of four other moves await me before I can finally return home for the year,” she says.

Despite her eight summer moves, she considers herself lucky to have been able to find a place to live. I know that this is not the case for everyone and that many have been in the same situation as me for much longer, she laments.

There are very few apartment buildings in the Magdalen Islands. Nearly 85% of the archipelago's housing stock is made up of single-family homes.

Between mid-May and July 25, the Islands Housing Search Service received 46 requests for support from residents who are at risk of finding themselves without accommodation. This service set up in the spring aims to find lasting and permanent solutions in the archipelago.

Community housing search worker Pierre Desbiens notes the despair of people who come to meet him.

“He has a box of tissues on the table, it's not for nothing. These are really very sad things we hear. Everyone has their little story and their injuries too, it's not easy. »

— Pierre Desbiens, community housing worker

Community worker Pierre Desbiens assists residents of the Magdalen Islands in their search for housing.

The last year, an emergency shelter was set up in the former arena of Havre-aux-Maisons, in collaboration with the Red Cross, to prevent Madelinots from ending up on the street.

< p class="e-p">This year, the Islands' Accommodation Search Service decided to reserve a few rooms instead. At least half a dozen people have already used this option in two months.

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For her part, the mayor of the Magdalen Islands maintains that the housing challenges are no different on the Islands than elsewhere.

There is an additional challenge linked to insularity, therefore to our isolation, but it is not an insurmountable challenge either, specifies Jonathan Lapierre.

“We hear the concerns of Madelinots and those who are in a precarious situation, but the message I want to send is that the Municipality has been more than proactive in terms of housing and continues to be so. »

— Jonathan Lapierre, Mayor of the Magdalen Islands

For two years, the Municipality has disbursed more than a million dollars to stimulate the creation of housing. We have done what no one has done in Quebec as a municipality to encourage developers or individuals to build rental housing available year-round, believes the mayor.

“The challenges related to housing unfortunately cannot be resolved in one or two years, so for the next few years, we will respond just as present as we have been in recent years”, assures Mayor Jonathan Lapierre.

The municipal administration has, among other things, set aside $690,000 to support developers for the creation of 100 new housing units, offered financial incentives for housing workers, given tax holidays and sold two arenas in return for nominal sums to ensure their conversion into apartments.

Recently, it also banned the construction or conversion of second homes into Airbnb-type tourist residences on the vast majority of the territory, with the aim of curbing real estate speculation, in addition to imposing a moratorium on the issuance of new permits. of construction in agricultural and forest territory.

We decided to act to try to reduce as much as possible the speculative aspect, the temptation to always pay much more for a property or to sell it much more expensive because we want to make an income, summarizes the mayor.

In addition to the housing situation, the Land use planning and landscape preservation are also current issues in the Magdalen Islands (archives).

Jonathan Lapierre believes, however, that the Municipality cannot act alone in the face of real estate speculation and overbidding and invites each Madelinot owner to help reverse the trend.

The second part of this report will be published Tuesday under the title < /em>Overplaying the Islands : a collective responsibility?.

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