Montreal, November 3rd 2014 – « There is no other word than ‘miserable’ to describe the situation of tenants in Côte-des-Neiges – and they account for 79% of neighbourhood households. » It is in these words François Saillant, the coordinator of the Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU), characterised the housing conditions in this multicultural neighbourhood during a press conference co-organised alongisde Project Genesis and OEIL Côte-des-Neiges.
According to data obtained from Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey (NHS), 15 675 households – representing 46% of neighbourhood tenants – pay more than the recommended 30% of their income in rent. Of these, 9 215 households (27% of all tenants) pay more than half of their income. Worse still are the 5 060 who spend more than 80% of their income to house themselves. They represent 15% of tenant households.
Mr. Saillant notes that the, « scale and gravity of housing problems seen in Côte-des-Neiges surpasses by a wide margin the already difficult conditions seen across the City of Montreal. » Côte-des-Neiges has lower than average tenant incomes, added with higher than average rents. Median tenant household income in Côte-des-Neiges is $29 900, $2 800 less than the Montreal average. Median rent – $716 per month – is $32 higher than the city average.
From 2006 to 2011, average tenant household incomes rose only 4.5% while rents rose an average of 10%.
Worse for newly arrived immigrants
« If we qualify the general situation of Côte-des-Neiges tenants as disastrous, then the situation faced by newly arrived immigrants is scandalous, » added Christopher Schwartz, a community organiser at Project Genesis. Côte-des-Neiges counts 6 220 tenant households who arrived in Canada between 2006 and 2011.
The NHS found that 51% of recent immigrants spent more than 30% of their income on rent, 32% more than 50% of their income, and 19% more than 80% of income.
Furthermore, 39% of households live in an overcrowded dwelling, while the average is 22% in the neighbourhood and 12% city-wide.
Social housing – a critical necessity in Côte-des-Neiges
According to Mr. Schwartz, « We need social housing in Côte-des-Neiges – not just because so many tenants are living in such deep poverty, but also because private developers have abandoned building new rental units in the neighbourhood. »
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reports indicate that only 9 new private market rental housing units were begun under construction since 2011 in a vast area encompassing Côte-des-Neiges, NDG, Outremont, Côte St. Luc, TMR, Westmount, Hampstead and Montreal West. Meanwhile, 1 597 new condominium units were initiated. « That’s 177 times the amount of condos when compared with rentals, » adds Schwartz, who added that this the need to priotise the construction of social housing on the Blue Bonnets site.
« The development of Blue Bonnets is a monumental occasion that must not be wasted. The needs of Côte-des-Neiges residents clearly underline the need for the Blue Bonnets site to be developed with at least 2 500 units of social housing on the site, » added Schwartz.
FRAPRU is currently conducting a Quebec-wide tour to present the findings of its report on housing data from the 2011 NHS, titled Dossier noir sur le logement et la pauvreté. They are putting on notice the provincial government of Philippe Couillard against making any move to cut, or even cancel, the financing for the construction of new social housing as they examine the financing of existing social programs. Mr. Saillant concluded the press conference by stating that, « it would indecent, when considering the realities of Côte-des-Neiges and the entire province, to cut meagre budgets which already fail to respond to the needs for social housing. » FRAPRU demands the financing necessary to build 50,000 new units of social housing throughout Quebec over five years.
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