MONTREAL -- Faced with mounting so-called "renovations," Quebec Solidaire is asking the Legault government to ban the practice throughout Quebec or at least to issue a moratorium while the situation is assessed.

The Rosemont MNA Vincent Marissal accompanied tenants of a building of 24 apartments in his Montreal constituency Monday to denounce this practice.

"These households must leave by July 1st, in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of a housing crisis," he said, pointing out that in his riding alone, the tenants of 18 buildings are experiencing the same situation.

"It is the law of the jungle. We take people who live in a neighbourhood, who have raised their families here and, overnight, we make an accounting and legal maneuver to buy the building, we evict everyone, we renovate -- often in a rather cosmetic way -- and we rent afterwards at twice the price,'" he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.


Gladis Osorio has lived in the building for 26 years with his spouse.

"On March 22, we received an eviction notice. We were told that we had to leave our apartments for a minimum of eight months and that the landlord had to make major repairs, but in the list we were given, it was just repairs to the exterior, the roof, changing the windows, but nothing inside our apartments," she said.

The owners initially offered her just over $2,600 in compensation. When she refused -- and all the tenants refused -- they came back after the deadline had passed, offering her $4,500 and a rent vacation for May and June, but this time with no chance of getting their unit back.

Osorio and her neighbours took the bull by the horns, but are now in complete limbo.

"We have made inquiries. We know that the lease renewal is automatic since there was no notice of increase," she said. "On April 1, the landlords applied to the administrative housing tribunal and we are waiting for a summons."


"It's like this all over Quebec," said Marissal.

The latest data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation proves him right, especially with regard to the housing crisis. The data shows vacancy rates of less than 3 per cent in almost every city in the province, with some even showing rates hovering around zero. Balance is considered to be achieved when it is at 3 per cent. Below that level, there is a shortage of housing.

"It's completely crazy. The market is completely broken and we let crooked owners who have absolutely nothing else in mind but to make the maximum amount of money. These people, who paid for this building, who paid the equivalent of the mortgage, no matter, no consideration."

The first demand of Québec Solidaire is not, however, to prohibit renovations.

The first and simplest thing to do is to recognize that there is a housing crisis. We don't do this political joust with the CAQ just for the sake of the political joust," Marissal said.

"If we are not able to recognize that there is a problem, we will never be able to bring solutions It takes political will."


In addition to the moratorium on renovations, Québec Solidaire is also calling for "a severe rent control, so a rent freeze certainly for this year and next year. Thirdly, a rent registry and a fourth thing that works in other provinces is an anti-flip tax, that is to say, taxing people at a high rate of taxation when they buy just to renovate and re-sell or re-rent for more money," he said. 

These people take rental housing off the market, often renovate superficially, and then sell the next year for two or three times the price.

The party believes that the absence of tourists should also be used to bring back housing that is now being used to benefit its owners even faster with tourism income through Airbnb-like platforms in order to return them to the rental market where the housing crisis is most severe.

Cities (more than 10,000 residents) with a housing shortage and their vacancy rates:

  • Montréal (RMR): 2.7 %
  • Québec: 2.7 %
  • Gatineau/Ottawa: 1.6 %
  • Saguenay: 2.8 %
  • Sherbrooke: 1.3 %
  • Trois-Rivières: 1.3 %
  • Drummondville: 1.8 %
  • Granby: 0.2 %
  • Rimouski: 0.9 %
  • St-Hyacinthe: 0.6 %
  • Amos: 1.1 %
  • Gaspé: 1.5 %
  • Iles-de-la-Madeleine: 0 %
  • Marieville: 0.1 %
  • Montmagny: 2.4 %
  • Mont-Laurier: 0.7 %
  • Roberval: 1.7 %
  • Sainte-Adèle: 1.3 %
  • Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts: 1.3 %
  • Alma: 0.9 %
  • Cowansville: 1.8 %
  • Joliette: 0.5 %
  • Lachute: 1.5 %
  • Matane: 2.0 %
  • Rivière-du-Loup: 1.3 %
  • Rouyn-Noranda: 1.1 %
  • Saint-Georges: 0.6 %
  • Sainte-Marie: 0.4 %
  • Sorel-Tracy: 2.5 %
  • Val-d'Or: 0.9 %
  • Salaberry-de-Valleyfield: 1.7 %
  • Victoriaville: 1.8 %

Source: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 10, 2021.