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'I don't want to end up in the streets': Montrealers struggle to find housing as July 1 approaches


After moving from the Beauce region, Naomy Guerin is couch-surfing at a friend's place on Montreal's South Shore. She knew there was a housing shortage, but nothing of this magnitude.

"I went to all the online classified sites: Marketplace, Kijiji, Les Pacs," Guerin said. "But prices are either well above my means or owners don't call back."

The 25-year-old works for minimum wage at a fast-food restaurant. Her budget is $1,300 per month for housing, which is within the average for a two-bedroom apartment.

In the Beauce, her last apartment cost her roughly $600 per month.

But she faces one major obstacle with landlords in Montreal: "As soon as I say I have two children, I'm told it won't be possible because it might disturb neighbours," she said.

She has one child about to enter Grade 1 and a two-month-old baby at home.

This form of discrimination is forbidden by law. But like most parents in her situation, she isn't equipped to fight landlords if she wants to find something. Guerin also cast a vast net to find something.

"I'm looking in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, all the way east, and in Rosemont," she said. "All I want is a safe neighbourhood for my children."

Her budget of $1,300 already represents half of her income. Economic guidelines usually recommend allocating, at most, 25 to 30 per cent of a paycheque for housing. Naomy says she's aware that won't happen.

"I'm willing to put half my income so my kids can have a roof over their head, even if it means having to go to food banks and make other sacrifices to make ends meet," Guerin said.


She's running out of options with days left before moving day in Quebec on July 1. She might have to move far from downtown and public transit — or worse — resume couch-surfing with friends until something materializes.

"Money isn't my main problem," she said, "It's facing the fact landlords won't accept children."

She's not the only Montrealer worried about finding a place to live as the clock is ticking.

Catherine Brunette is a recently separated single mother who has to leave her three-bedroom apartment because she can’t afford it on her own. She can’t find anything in her budget and fights back tears when she thinks of what could happen in just over a week

"I’m stressed out. I don’t want to end up in the streets, but there's nothing decent in my price range in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, where my kids go to school," she said in an interview.

Québec solidaire (QS) co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau Dubois is appealing to the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government to take measures to help renters, calling the housing situation "a crisis" in Quebec.


Earlier this week, the premier, who has often said he wants to reduce Quebec’s wealth gap with Ontario, linked higher housing costs with higher salaries. He said he doesn’t want Quebec to remain poor so that house prices are kept lower than in Toronto and Vancouver.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante took issue with that

"We can see in cities like Toronto and Vancouver where the salaries are higher. Well, the middle class cannot afford it, so I don’t want to be a city where only rich people can afford [housing]," Plante said.

QS said the premier is doing nothing to help owners or renters.

"The prices of houses in Quebec have increased three times faster than the salaries since François Legault is in power," said Nadeau-Dubois. "And what a lot of homeowners do is they turn towards their tenants, and they increase the rents."

Affordable housing advocates point to a study showing rents in Montreal have soared by 44 per cent in the last decade.

"If the prices of the rental houses or apartment rise, then the people will be poor. So, either François Legault doesn’t understand that his stance leads to the aggravation of poverty for tenants or either he doesn’t have any problem with that," said Martin Blanchard, a spokesperson for Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec (RCLALQ).

The premier has since clarified his comments, saying his government is working hard to build more housing units. But housing groups point out that it takes time.

And in Montreal, there are more than 300 households that have already asked for emergency housing as of July 1. Top Stories

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