MONTREAL -- Quebec opposition party Quebec Solidare (QS) is calling out CAQ Premier Francois Legault for being out of touch with what the actual cost of rent is in the province he governs, particularly in its largest city, after the premier suggested rent in Montreal is between $500 and $600.

In the National Assembly on Wednesday, QS spokesperson Manon Masse asked Legault about the price of an apartment in Montreal.

"Do you have any idea? How much to rent in Montreal?" asked the MNA for Sainte-Marie–Saint-Jacques.

"It depends on the size of the apartment, but I would say it can start at maybe $500-600 a month, and it can go up to $1,000 a month pretty quickly," said Legault.

On the website, there are 337 listings out of the 1,759 that are $1,000 per month or lower and just six that are $600 or lower. All six of those are private rooms in a residence with other tenants.

"Good luck finding that," Masse wrote on Twitter responding to Legault's comments.

In a news scrum on Thursday, the premier criticized the media for misinterpreting his comments.

Visibly stung, he said he was proud to come from the "very middle class" and that he had remained "close to the people" over the years.

Legault said on Thursday that he was talking about the price a student would have to pay per month to share an apartment with other students.

"If that wasn't clear, I apologize," he said, before turning to the media in the room and accusing them of misrepresenting his words.

"It's unqualifiable what some journalists have written," said Legault, who said he had received "nasty" messages on social media.

Masse said Thursday that she wants the Quebec government to recognize the problem and to meet those affected by it, and her party will table a motion on affordable housing. 

"I invite him to reconnect with the people and come with me on the street," she said. "Meet people who've been kicked out, by eviction, of their apartment, and talk with them, and maybe ask questions such as: How much? What is the impact of the rent of your apartment on your family budget?... How much money stays in your pocket to pay the bills, to pay for food?"

Masse and her party have begun calling on the public to mobilize and speak out about the housing crisis in Quebec.

Demonstrations were held last weekend, and the party has said it will continue to highlight the lack of affordable housing, rise in renovictions and other housing issues.

Montreal housing advocate organization FRAPRU (Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain) also responded to Legault's comments criticizing the premier for being out of touch with the cost-of-living realities in his province.

"In the midst of a housing crisis, this response from the premier confirms the perception that organizations defending the right to housing have of a lack of interest and ignorance, not to speak of disconnection from the realities experienced by tenants," the organization wrote on social media.

"Perhaps the premier also doesn't know that the median annual income of Quebec's tenant households is less than $38,000. Those who dedicate more than 50 per cent (well above the standard of 30 per cent) of their income to rent, it is less than $14,000," FRAPRU added.

FRAPRU says the average rent for a studio apartment in Montreal is $702, while a three-bedroom and up is $1,112. 

No member of the CAQ cabinet has admitted there is a housing crisis and the premier rejected the idea of a rent freeze in 2021.

"There was a crisis in the early 2000s when the vacancy rate was less than 1 per cent. Today, it is 2.5 per cent. The crisis we are currently experiencing is the (COVID-19) pandemic," said Legault.

Some responses to Masse's tweet called out Legault for being out of touch as many did to former Liberal premier Philippe Couillard when Couillard said a $75 per week grocery bill was possible.

"It's clear that just like Couillard, Legault never had to struggle a single day in his life," wrote one Twitter user in reply to Masse. 

After hearing Legault suggest rent is around $500, Masse had the same feeling that the premier is disconnected from the working and middle class.

"He doesn't know the reality of these people," she said. "I was, first of all, very shocked. We're not in 1985, 1994, we are in 2021." 

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