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Federal budget: Liberals plan to convert some Montreal office buildings into housing

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The federal government plans to convert some government office buildings into housing, including some in Quebec, and to leasing federal land, according to the budget announced Tuesday.

The Liberal government announced in its 2024 federal budget that it is earmarking $1.1 billion over 10 years to convert 50 per cent of its buildings, with proposed savings of $3.9 billion over the same period of time.

In Montreal, the budget specifically lists the National Film Board offices on Côte-de-Liesse Road near the Metropolitan, which will soon have 100 homes. Ottawa will also be spending $4 million over two years for new housing at four sites across the country.

That includes the much sought-after land of the Wellington Basin, which has been discussed for years. There will also be post offices converted into housing developments in Roxboro, Trois-Rivières and Beauharnois.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said on social media that she was happy to see measures to speed up access to more homes.

Housing group FRAPRU says it's also pleased the feds focused on this, but it worries all these properties will be going to private developers and won't include social or affordable homes.

"We are preoccupied that too many of these apartments are going to be mostly given to the private sector and … that's why we are a bit deceived, if I can mention it like this, at how they presented the initiatives of how they're going to distribute or use their own sites to support the construction of housing," said FRAPRU coordinator Catherine Lussier.

CTV News also spoke to Renaud Brossard, vice-president of communications for the Institut Economique de Montréal (IEDM), who said Ottawa could have taken a page out of Quebec's 2024 budget by looking at the number of bureaucrats and trying to make government more efficient.

"Since the Trudeau government took office, there's about 100,000 federal bureaucrats that work for the federal government. When we adjust for population growth, that's a 28-per cent increase." said Brossard.

"I don't know about you, but I don't feel like federal services are delivered 28 per cent better."

The federal Liberals announced Tuesday it would cut 5,000 public service jobs over four years through attrition. 

Some other aspects of the budget that affect Quebec include more money for high-frequency rail between Quebec City and Toronto and more contracts for the Davie Shipyard in Lévis.

Quebec Finance Minister Éric Girard said he will react to the budget Wednesday morning.

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