05/19/2017 11:01 EDT | Updated 06/05/2017 03:31 EDT

Sale Of Montreal's Snowdon Theatre Put Private Profit Over Social Good

On Thursday May 4, 2017, Global News reported that Montreal's Snowdon Theatre would soon be sold to a private company for $1.6 million.

It's a shame. The sale of Snowdon Theatre represents a missed opportunity. Rather than considering the needs of the people of Côte-des-Neiges, the City of Montreal has chosen to sell the site to the highest bidder.

In Côte-des-Neiges, more than 40 per cent of residents live below the poverty line. Elected officials could have decided to build social housing on the site. This would have had a major impact for low-income residents of the neighbourhood.

We need social housing badly -- the city knows that. Over 5,000 Côte-des-Neiges households pay at least 80 per cent of their income towards their rent, and the average waiting time for a social housing unit is five years. Rents go up every year, and buildings are getting older and are often dilapidated. Yet only 8.4 per cent of tenant households live in social or community housing, compared to 32 per cent in a neighbourhood like Pointe-Saint-Charles.

We know what the solution is to these problems. We don't need a plan or a commission or a consultation. We need social housing, a welfare rate that allows people to live in dignity, a $15/hour minimum wage. These are the solutions to poverty.

montreal skyline dark

(Photo: Mmemil via Getty Images)

There was no consultation with the people of Côte-des-Neiges to decide what would be best for this location. This is a publicly owned building, and it should serve the public. Instead, this decision hurts the public. It hurts poor people, senior citizens, single-parent households.

There are few publicly owned sites in Côte-des-Neiges where social housing could be built. Sites with the required zoning, close to the city centre and to a metro station are rare. A notable exception is Blue Bonnets, another site over which the city has full control, but its development has been blocked for many years and, in any case, the current administration has no aspiration to go beyond the inclusion strategy, which falls far short of what's needed. The development of Blue Bonnets must not go the same way as Snowdon Theatre.

Shame on the politicians who neglect the needs of their constituents.

Even if it is not possible to build social housing immediately on the Snowdon Theatre site, the city could reserve the site for a future social housing project. We need to stop building endless condo developments. They don't respond to the needs of the neighbourhood and they contribute to gentrification. Snowdon Theatre must not become a condo development.

At the very least, the city should put the $1.6 million it makes from the sale of this public site directly towards a social housing project elsewhere in the neighbourhood.

Decisions like this send the message that our elected officials don't care about people who live in poverty, that they don't hear us. But we're going to keep fighting.

Shame on the politicians who neglect the needs of their constituents.

By members of the Project Genesis Housing Rights Committee: Anthony Baasien-Capsa, Claire Abraham, Iocent Crammer, Mohamed Benkiran, Myrtle Anderson and Rosario Tapia

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