Legislative overhaul sparks housing anxiety amongst students

Lease transfer, an indirect method of rent control, may no longer be a viable option to renting students

The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government’s new housing legislature, Bill 31, is sending ripples across the housing market as students must consider moving come their next lease renewal period.

Introduced in early summer, the bill has been under scrutiny by landlords and tenants alike for its changes. Amongst them is the removal of Article 7, which gives landlords permission to deny lease assignments between tenants, better known as lease transfers.

Although said to be fair and balanced by Housing Minister France-Elaine Duranceau, protests across Quebec by tenant rights groups have been organized to argue otherwise.

“It is a direct attack on our right to affordable housing,” Ria Mayer said, a student organizer for the Concordia Research and Education Workers’ Union (CREW-CSN), who attended one of these protests. “It kind of spits in the face of tenants everywhere.”

In Préfontaine Park on Sept. 16, a demonstration was held by the Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec (RCLALQ) to protest the latest bill and the increased cost of living. 

Mayer explained that for years, those of lower-income housing could rely on lease transfers to artificially maintain a stable cost of living while circumventing rent increases by avoiding the lease renewal period. 

Mayer added that she had the lease transfers to thank for her brother’s current living space, an opportunity she lamented over, as her peers may no longer be able to do the same soon.

“For some students it is a way to have access to housing for the first time,” Cedric Dussault, spokesperson for RCLALQ, said. “These students often don’t have anyone to back them up for their lease.”

Protesters marching down the street against Bill 31’s unfair housing laws. / Photo by Miet Verhauwaert 

Dussault explained that although lease transfers won’t be disappearing outright, the process will become much more threatening for tenants, as landlords would be given the power to nullify a lease. 

Dussault added that this addition to lease transfer law will in turn create a greater disparity in power between tenant and landlord.

Adia Giddings, an assistant worker at Concordia’s Housing and Job Resource Center (HOJO), said that she’s already witnessed the effects first-hand of the proposed bill on some students.

“We’re seeing most students go to court over their lease transfers right now, landlords are just outright denying it, they’re coming up with excuses,” Giddings said. “So, all of these types of issues have already started.”

Despite protests recently emerging throughout the province, Giddings claims that landlord groups such as the Landlord Corporation des Propriétaires Immobiliers du Québec (CORPIQ) have discussed enacting a bill to render lease transfers less viable for almost two years.

Last week’s demonstration lasted almost four hours, with separate marches taking place simultaneously in Montreal, Quebec City, Rimouski, Rouyn-Noranda, and Sherbrooke.

With the Bill expected to be debated over later in the fall , only time will tell if the protestors’ actions will make the desired mark.


Housing advocates laud Mayor Plante’s social housing move

Landlords sound the alarm while other advocates say more can be done

Advocacy groups for social housing in Montreal have praised Mayor Valérie Plante’s use of the right of first refusal law, which gives the city priority in purchasing properties over private buyers for the benefit of the community.

The law, granted by the Charter of Ville de Montréal, was created in 2016 to afford the city greater powers in developing urban planning projects. Since then, the Plante administration has said it would use the law to help tackle the city’s affordable housing problem.

However, some groups representing landlords insist the city’s decision to purchase buildings for the purpose of social housing is a costly mistake.

Matthew Pearce, former CEO and President of the Old Brewery Mission, told The Concordian that the acquisition of Parc-

A mock advising session was at Project Genesis, a grassroots organization that helps the community resolve social issues, such as housing problems and basic income insecurity.

Extension’s Hutchison Plaza in September was a good start.

“[The mayor] should see the acquisition of the Hutchison building as the first in an ongoing process of purchasing of buildings that become available.” The creation of the law allows the city to compete with the deep pockets of private developers, he said.

About 20,000 families are currently on the waiting list, he explained.

“There are many people who aren’t homeless but are very precariously housed. Anybody who is without housing should have access to affordable housing.”

However, not everyone agrees with the mayor’s decision.

Martin Messier, President of the Association des Propriétaires du Québec told The Concordian  that the right of first refusal should only be used in exceptional cases.

“We think the best way to help the tenant is to provide financial help so that they are able to really choose the location and make sure that we have diversity in a building, so not only tenants with the same profile. I think it’s a win-win for the tenant and the landlord.”

Hans Brouillette, Director of Public Affairs at Corporation des Propriétaires Immobiliers du Québec, said he recognized that the private market is incapable of fulfilling the needs of all tenants. However, he stated that the city’s move was unnecessarily expensive and inefficient.

Aside from buying the property, the city will have to renovate and manage it, he said.

“The same amount of money would have helped many more households if it could have been used to keep tenants in their current apartment in the private market, or even to help them to move to a better apartment.”

Community organizer at Project Genesis, Darby MacDonald

“If some types of apartments are not available then the city should support promoters with subsidies to build those apartments,” he said. “It’s all politics. It’s an administration against landlords.”

In response to assertions about the private market’s effectiveness, Darby MacDonald, a community organizer at Project Genesis, told The Concordian that social housing “exists and is successful because it exists outside of the private market that isn’t serving the needs of its people.”

“Subsidies alone won’t resolve issues of people who require housing, and many of those who accept subsidies find themselves in difficult situations,” MacDonald said. One woman, she explained, accepted an apartment subsidy for five years but the landlord renovicted the building’s other inhabitants. “She’s the only person remaining and doesn’t have electricity.” 

“The solution is for the government to step in and take care of the community the way that it can.”


Photographs by Christine Beaudoin

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