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Thousands of Montrealers gathered in front of Parc Metro station Thursday evening to make it clear they don’t want the provincial government to make it easier for landlords to refuse lease transfers.

The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) recently tabled new housing legislation, Bill-31, which would make it harder for landlords to evict tenants but would also prevent tenants from transferring their leases.

Lease transfers, or lease assignments, have become a common way for tenants to control rent by preventing landlords from hiking prices between tenants.

“A lease assignment is a tool that is supposed to help tenants to show solidarity with each other. Unfortunately, this is one of the last tools we have left to avoid price increases,” said librarian and author Eli San at the protest.

“It is tragic that the government wants to take it away from us.”

She says she loves Montreal, but if she had to move out of her place, she doesn’t know if she’d be able to find a place she could afford on her own.

With rents continuing to rise, and the price of buying a home doing the same, we break down what’s driving the housing crisis in Montreal.

Protesters pointed out how much rents have exploded in the city over the last few years, and waitlists for social housing aren’t getting any shorter.

“It is a basic and vital need to be housed. I think the policies that have been in place for many years are making the crisis worse,” said Ève Deshaies, who lives in co-operative housing in Montreal’s Village.

She says she left her previous apartment, which was poorly maintained, as it was up for sale and was “probably going to be flipped.”

“Human distress is terrible in my neighbourhood, we see it every day. It’s frightening,” she said.

“But these people gather in the street because they no longer have a place to live. It’s very rough. Nothing is being done to help them out of poverty, and housing, well, that’s the basis.”

Legault ‘living in fantasy world’

Premier François Legault has been under fire for comments he made earlier this week about Quebec’s housing crisis.

Legault said Monday he believed last year’s moving day went well and that no Quebecers were left without a place to stay. He tried to walk back the comments, but some say he’s disconnected from reality.

Québec Solidaire’s Gabriel-Nadeau Dubois says when it comes to housing, Legault is out of touch.

“Legault is living in fantasy world,” he said. His party has launched a petition to block the end of lease transfers.

Housing groups challenged Legault’s comments, pointing out that there were a reported 600 households without a home after July 1, 2022.

Defending Bill-31, Quebec’s housing minister, France-Élaine Duranceau, has said landlords take risks when investing in housing and should be able to pick who lives in their units.

But she too faced significant backlash from housing groups and Quebecers when she said renters shouldn’t be “using a right that isn’t theirs” by transferring leases to keep rents low. She later apologized for “seeming insensitive.”

Duranceau is also facing an investigation by Quebec’s ethics and professional conduct commissioner with respect to conflicts of interest. Duranceau had a professional meeting with her friend and business partner, Annie Lemieux, who acted in this context as a lobbyist with her and the minister responsible for seniors in December 2022.


Story by: CBC News