Demonstrators take to the streets two weeks before moving day
Only two weeks away from the provinces moving day on Jul. 1, hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets to protest against the growing number of renovictions and to bring awareness to what they say is an increasingly severe housing crisis.
The protest started at Jarry Park and subsequently made its way through Villeray and Park Extension before arriving at the borough council office where speeches were made.
Although the demonstrators represented different groups and interests from across the island, they were all asking that more be done to address renovictions and the rise in rent prices.
The protest was organized by a coalition of local housing organizations including Comité d’Action de Parc Extension (CAPE), Regroupement des comités logement
et associations de locataires du Québec (RCLALQ) and L’Association des locataires de Villeray (ALV).
The focus of the protest was the rise in renovictions in Montreal and across the province.
This is the practice of evicting tenants to perform major renovations and subsequently raising rent prices, most often pushing out tenants for good.
It has garnered attention and criticism over the past year as an increasingly common and aggressive tactic in the rental market to evict low-income residents from buildings and gentrify areas.
“Demonstrators demand from the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Andrée Laforest to set up a concrete political response to the housing crisis,” read a statement by the group of organizers.
“A mere month before Jul. 1, many households are victims of eviction and harsh rent increases, with tactics such as renovictions increasing,” continued the statement.
Need for more effective rent control
This viewpoint was also shared by Park Ex organization CAPE, who were one of the co-organizers behind the protest on Saturday afternoon.
“The goal is to call out the government about what’s happening with the evictions in the city and to demand better laws to protect tenants,” said Celia Dehouche, a community organizer with CAPE.
“This area got gentrified in the past few years and a lot of people have been evicted in this area as well,” added Dehouche on the significance of the protest route through Villeray, Little Italy and Park Extension.
Many advocacy groups including CAPE are demanding that the provincial government do more to address the issue, such as imposing more effective rent controls and regulating the rental housing market.
“To give the chance to people to stay in the neighbourhood to pay decent rent that reflects their incomes,” is what activists want added Dehouche.
Motion at city council
The demonstration came only 2 days before borough mayor for Villeray─Saint-Michel Parc-Extension Giuliana Fumagalli presented a motion to implement a rent prices registry locally in Montreal, on Monday at a city council meeting.
“Montreal has no other choice than to initiate a rent registry project to truly protect tenants and the rental housing market,” read a statement provided by the mayor’s office, further berating the inaction of the provincial government.
The motion was supported by Sue Montgomery, borough mayor for Côte-des-Neiges– Notre-Dame-de-Grâce along with Christine Gosselin, city councillor for the district of Vieux-Rosemont.
“The rent registry is a necessary tool to protect tenants from owners who are increasingly predatorial in an increasingly precarious rental market,” the statement concluded.
Although borough and municipal level initiatives are appreciated by housing activists, they are often seen as not powerful enough to make a lasting difference. “The provincial has most of the power about those kinds of regulations,” explained Dehouche.
Dehouche said that although regulation had been put in place to prevent evictions at the borough level last year, the law was not broad enough to prevent renovictions. “There have been many changes brought to the regulation, which made it a little bit disappointing,” added Dehouche.
Quebec Solidaire MNA for Laurier-Dorion Andrés Fontecilla presented a plan in early June to address what he says is an imminent emergency on moving day when many in the city will be left without a home. Fontecilla was also present at the rally on Saturday.
The proposed emergency measures would deliver funds to municipalities to accommodate people who have lost their homes as well as putting a temporary stop to renovictions before a full legislative overhaul can be achieved.