Montreal, 5 October 2023 – Members of the Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU) and its allies from the rest of Canada took to the streets of Ottawa today, a few days after World Habitat Day. FRAPRU and its allies were there to remind Justin Trudeau’s government of its obligations towards poorly housed tenant households under the 2019 federal National Housing Strategy Act, which recognizes that adequate housing is a fundamental right. They also demanded massive investment in social housing. At the end of the march, protestors hung a giant flag making this demand in front of the Ministry of Finance.
While all metropolitan regions of Quebec and many Canadian cities are in the grip of a rental housing shortage, real estate speculation and exploding rental costs are hitting low- and moderate-income households hardest. Average rent increased by 7.7% between 2021 and 2022 in Canada and by 9% in Quebec. In Gatineau, it increased by 22%. Average monthly rent for available housing is higher than ever. According to Rentals.ca, in September 2023, a 2-bedroom apartment averaged $2521 in Ottawa, $2237 in Montreal, and $3413 in Toronto.
Meanwhile, according to Statistics Canada, there are 943,170 tenant households in Canada in core housing need, with a median annual income of $27,200. In Quebec, there are 173,000 households in this situation, with an annual income of only $21,400 reminds FRAPRU.
“How is it even possible that these households, on the frontlines of the housing crisis, are completely ignored by Federal housing policies? These are the very people at risk of homelessness with the first rent increase, or after eviction or separation, and of living in housing conditions which put their health and safety in danger,” queried Véronique Laflamme, spokesperson for the Quebec housing rights network.
The National Housing Strategy is a ten-year, 82-billion-dollar plan aiming to help all Canadian households access affordable housing which meets their needs. This plan must prioritize the most vulnerable say advocates.
“Almost half-way into the plan, it is clear that the Strategy is way off-target! Instead of shifting focus to better target investments and prioritize social housing – whether public housing, cooperatives or non-profit housing organizations – the Trudeau government continues to squander public money in schemes which mainly fail to address the most urgent needs,” stated Véronique Laflamme. This dispersal of funding has come under increasing attack over the past months.
Joining voices with the National Housing Council and the Federal Housing Advocate, numerous housing rights and other civil society organizations such as FRAPRU, the National Right To Housing Network, the Canadian union of public employees (CUPE), and the Canadian Council for Policy Alternatives (all present at the protest) are asking the government to concentrate its investments in social housing, outside the private market.
“The way the National Housing Strategy is being implemented and the government’s announcements over the past weeks demonstrate how far the Federal government is off-track, focusing solely on the supply side of housing. With no attention to financial accessibility, housing access will only worsen and rents continue to sky-rocket. You only have to look at the figures: while construction doubled between 2016 and 2021 in Quebec, the shortage of financially-accessible tenant housing deepened and prices continued to rise exponentially. The main culprits in the current crisis are lack of social housing and lack of controls on the private rental market,” declared Catherine Lussier, co-responsible for federal issues at FRAPRU, recalling that this kind of policy only contributes to the rapid inflation of housing costs.
FRAPRU believes that the only measures which will make a difference are the new coop program and the Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI), because they are dedicated to non-profit projects. However, the former has been on standby for two years and the latter was renewed only three times, for a total of $4 billion – a tiny portion of federal affordability spending.
“The Federal government says it wants to act on the housing crisis, but if it truly wants to respond to deepening need, it must refinance the RHI this fall and it must redirect all funding allocated for housing under the Strategy towards the non-market sector,” stated Véronique Laflamme. She added, “if we want these housing units to be built quickly and guaranteed affordability to low- and moderate-income households, we need comprehensive and sustainable programs dedicated to social housing.”
FRAPRU, like the other groups participating in the Social Housing and Human Rights campaign’s day of action in other parts of the country, believes that social housing is the only way to lastingly improve the situation of tenant households and of unhoused individuals and families, and to advance in housing rights. These groups are asking the government to make significant investments, starting with the fall economic and financial update.
For more information:
Véronique Laflamme, FRAPRU: 418 956-3403
Catherine Lussier, FRAPRU: 514 231-2309