"Did it go well July 1st, 2021? Yes. Well, it will also go well on July 1, 2023," Premier François Legault told Québec solidaire (QS) parliamentary leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois Thursday at the National Assembly.

But this statement about moving day in Quebec doesn't track for opposition parties and community organizations.

"François Legault puts his head in the sand. This premier is disconnected from the reality of the housing crisis since the beginning," said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois in an interview.

Nadeau-Dubois had asked Legault to name "a concrete gesture, only one, that he will make in the next year to limit the explosion of rents in Quebec."

To which Legault replied: "We're taking steps to ensure that everyone has a place to stay. So, that's very clear."

But the QS says that's not enough.

"Even people who find an apartment, it does not mean that they find an apartment at a reasonable price; it does not mean that they find an apartment that meets their needs. There are more and more people in Quebec who are crammed into apartments that are too small for them, or too expensive for them," Nadeau-Dubois said on the phone.

Joël Arsenau, the Parti Québécois housing critic, also deplores Legault's comments.

"I have a lot of difficulty understanding how the premier can be so uninformed about the situation when some of his ministers have put in place measures, certainly unsatisfactory, to try to address the crisis. Then today, to say that the last two years have been good, I am truly perplexed," he said in an interview.

"It doesn't bode well when a government like that seems to be out of touch or to deny the reality that is experienced by thousands of families. And it's not just in urban areas," he added, urging the government to take measures such as abolishing Clause F on leases, which allows landlords to increase rents without considering housing tribunal recommendations during the five years following the construction of a new building.

"I wonder what July 1 was like for the premier," said Virginie Dufour, the Quebec Liberal Party's municipal affairs and housing critic. Instead, she said she views the upcoming moving season "with a lot of concern."

"The lower the vacancy rate, the fewer options there are for families to rehouse, and now we're in rates like we've never seen," Dufour noted. "You add to that all the people who have had evictions in the last few months."


For housing advocacy group Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU), the leadup to July 1 is far from going well.

"We've seen in the last few years the length of time for which tenant households needed temporary housing increase," said FRAPRU spokesperson Véronique Laflamme.

Last year, the organization counted 600 tenant households accompanied by an assistance service who found themselves without a lease on July 1 in Quebec.

"We noticed last year that two months after July 1, there were still a few hundred tenant households who were without housing. So, we see that [moving days] are increasingly difficult, and the period for which people call for help, and for which people need help, is getting longer," Laflamme explained.

Guillaume Dostaler, coordinator of Entraide Logement Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, reports the same scenario.

"It's worse than last year, which was worse than the year before, which was worse than the year before. It's going to be even worse this year, it's pretty clear to me," he said.

According to the latest rental market report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), published in January 2023, the vacancy rate in Montreal has dropped from 3.7 to 2.3 per cent.

And it's even lower for affordable housing; the vacancy rate for apartments with rents of about $1,000 per month and less is 1 per cent.

"The few units available are very expensive. We are closely monitoring the situation, but for the moment, we have the impression that it will be as difficult as it has been in the past few years for Montreal tenants," said Laflamme.

She said the housing scarcity is increasingly felt outside Montreal, in cities like Trois-Rivières and Sherbrooke, as well as in certain municipalities of the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region.

The press secretary for Housing Minister France-Élaine Duranceau reacted in writing by pointing out that "this year, it is an overall budget of $5.8 million that is allocated to respond to the pressing needs of homeless households, an increase of $3 million compared to the previous year," and that "the government will support municipalities that wish to help households on their territory by putting in place measures such as temporary accommodation or storage of movable property."

This story was written with the financial assistance of the Meta Exchange and The Canadian Press for news.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 13, 2023.