MONTREAL -- According to housing advocates in Montreal, 220 people are out of a home this Moving Day—that is, they have a budget that’s been adequate until now, but haven’t been able to find a place in time for July 1.

Firoz Gadatia is one of them. The Villeray man says he’s been searching for months, but the low vacancy rate has made things impossible, along with the ways apartment viewings have been complicated by the pandemic.

“Where am I going to be in the next few days?” he says. “I’m really stuck. I don't know what to do anymore.”

Along with very low vacancy rates, prices have soared in recent years. According to one new study from housing group RCLALQ, average rent in Montreal has gone up by 40 per cent in the last five years.

Profit margins for landlords, meanwhile, have gone up to 24 per cent on average, nearly three times the margin in 2000, according to another new study by socioeconomic think tank IRIS.

The Quebec Landlords’ Association says the cost of repairs to buildings are to blame for the increase in rent.

“The fact is, we still have the lowest rent in Montreal, if we look at the major cities in Canada,” said Martin Messier of the association.

“We’re still trying to increase those rents so that the business is profitable.”

But if rents continue to climb, advocates say that low-income residents will simply have nowhere to go.

The profitability of rental housing is at the heart of the debate, says one expert. It’s a question Montreal hasn’t resolved—how comfortable it is allowing rental housing to be used as an investment vehicle.

“We've already observed, in the past, a tension between rental housing as an investment and housing as a basic need,” says Guillaume Hebert of the Institutes for Research and Development on Inclusion and Society.

Many tenants on this Moving Day, more of a bitter one than usual, say they feel crystal clear on that subject.

“Now it’s chaos, it's chaos, and the small people pay,” said Gadatia.

“The big ones are paying financially [but] the little ones are going to be the ones that are going to be homeless, like myself.”

The city has set up some emergency services for people who were not able to line up a new lease, and they’re asking anyone in that situation to call 311.