MONTREAL -- The City of Montreal has announced a new housing strategy to address soaring residential real estate prices on the island, but critics say it doesn’t address the needs of those facing the biggest housing crisis.

Starting April 1, private condo developers in St-Laurent and Nuns' Island will be required to reserve some units to sell as affordable housing. 

Under the Affordable Metropolis Program, developers will be required to cut 10 per cent off the market price of those units, and the city will contribute another 10 per cent for qualifying residents, making a $500,000 home cost $400,000 for qualified buyers, for example.

The program will target a very specific group, said executive council member Robert Beaudry, who’s in charge of housing.

"There’s a part of the population who are not wealthy enough to get in the market and who do not fit the criteria of social housing,” he explained. "This program is aimed at families and households that have difficulty acquiring a home on the private market. By offering a discount equivalent to 20 per cent of the market price, it will encourage first-time buyers as well as [families]."

But social housing advocacy group FRAPRU said this plan won't help all that many people. 

"This program is made for buyers, but when we look at the statistics of Montreal, 60 per cent of the population is renters in Montreal," said Catherine Lussier of FRAPRU.

According to Canada Mortgage and Housing, Montreal’s average household income is $66,000 a year. That’s not enough to buy a home, said Lussier.

“If we really want to resolve the housing crisis in Montreal right now, I think we must increase development of social and affordable housing outside of the private markets,” she said.

The city acknowledges this program is targeted to people in the middle class. It says it is also implementing a cap on the resale value of these homes, so they can’t be resold for more than three per cent higher than the buyer paid. 

The City of Montreal estimates by the end of 2023, the program will provide up to 350 new affordable units to the market at a cost to taxpayers of up $14 million.

Housing advocate Maxime Roy-Allard of RCLALQ would like to see the money used not for the middle, but for those with much more dramatic needs.

"We should use all we have to build more social housing units and to force developers to build more social housing units," he said.