06/15/2019 11:29 EDT

Montreal's Housing Shortage The Target Of Protesters

The city has 87,000 households spending more than half their income on rent, activist group says.

Mario Beauregard/The Canadian Press
A file photo of a 2015 FRAPRU protest, showing supporters sitting on a bench as they wait for the protest march to begin, Montreal, May 21, 2015.

MONTREAL — A Montreal-based tenants’ rights group is leading a demonstration this afternoon in the city’s Cote-des-Neiges neighbourhood to protest a housing shortage, which it blames partly on the condo boom, real estate speculation and short-term rentals spearheaded by Airbnb.

The Front d’action populaire en reamenagement urbain (FRAPRU) says it’s focused on the plight of low-income renters ahead of Quebec’s annual moving day on July 1.

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It cites numbers from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation that show a 1.9 per cent vacancy rate in Montreal and 0.7 per cent rate in Gatineau, where flooding and tornadoes have put increasing pressure on the rental market.

FRAPRU spokeswoman Veronique Laflamme says it’s Montreal’s worst housing shortage in 14 years, adding that since January, 161 households in the metropolitan area have used housing assistance services set up by the Montreal Municipal Housing Office. Twenty of those families have still not found accommodation for July 1.

Municipal Affairs Minister Andree Laforest said last month that the housing situation in Quebec is currently well-controlled, with vacancy rates incomparable to those from the 2000s.

Laflamme says the minister does not grasp the seriousness of the situation in Montreal and Gatineau, dubbing it a housing crisis. FRAPRU says about 87,000 households in Montreal spend more than half their income on their rent.