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Hundreds demonstrate against Quebec housing bill


Several hundred people demonstrated in Montreal on Saturday to oppose Bill 31 on housing, saying it will weaken the rights of renters.

Bill 31 was initially meant to offer additional protection against so-called 'renovictions,' the practice of forcing out tenants under the guise of renovations, often with little or no compensation.

But housing advocates say they have more concerns, too. Quebec had the third fastest annual rental growth rate in Canada, at 13 per cent this year, despite regulations on rent increases.

Activists are calling for "an immediate rent freeze and the socialization of all new housing."

"I'm retired," said tenant Michael Fell. "I get one cheque -- and they want to up the rent to the price of that one cheque. Where are my groceries?"

During a parliamentary committee in the national assembly this week, housing activists discovered that Liberal housing critic Virginie Dufour introduced an amendment that would allow landlords to request a security deposit from tenants with domestic pets.

"We refuse the security deposits, because it's a barrier to tenants to have access to housing," said Andres Fontecilla, the Quebec Solidaire MNA for Laurier Dorion.

The pet clause would create a dangerous precedent, said protesters, because it would open the door to other types of rental deposits, currently illegal under any circumstances in Quebec.

"If anything, what it does is it opens the door to rental deposits generally," said Amy Darwish of the Park Extension housing committee. "It could create a context where people may have to go into debts just to keep pets. It will mean you can only have a pet if you're wealthy."

Bill 31 will also prevent tenants from transferring their lease to other people, and open the door for landlords to increase rents illegally when someone vacates their apartment.

Without a central registry of all dwellings, tenants fear they're at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords.

"Knowing your rights as a tenant is really essential to surviving as a tenant, because it really is a game of survival," said Darwish.

The Quebec government is expected to adopt the bill in early 2024.

 - With files from The Canadian Press Top Stories

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