Despite being known for years as a renter’s paradise, Montreal’s housing costs are shooting up and tenants’ rights advocates are warning that’s hurting the city’s most vulnerable people.

As some Montrealers got ready to switch digs on the annual July 1 Moving Day, not all were happy about their new housing situations. Justin Thomas said a dispute with his landlord over Airbnb rentals made it impossible to stay, but finding a new place was also hard.

“We were very lucky that we found a place,” he said. “I was scouring Kijiji and the hour it was posted I responded... We’re going to be paying more than we were paying here. The options in our price range are a lot less.”

Montreal’s vacancy rate is just 1.9 per cent, the lowest in 20 years. Tenants’ rights activist Maxime Roy-Allard said without rent control, landlords are at liberty to raise rent.

“If you’re looking for a place this year, if you want a two-bedroom apartment in Montreal, you have to pay $1,200 and $1,300,” he said. “Not $800 like official numbers are saying.”

Roy-Allard said many low-income families are being priced out of the market and called on the government to step in.

“It’s very hard for low-income tenants because there’s not enough social housing,” he said.

But Hans Brouillette, spokesperson for the Real Estate Owners Corporation of Quebec, said rent increases are due to many factors.

“Taxes increase, the cost of maintenance, renovations, insurance premiums and management… It’s very difficult to have rents as we did have several years ago,” he said.

Brouillette said that the cost of becoming a landlord has also gone up, with the recent boom in Montreal’s real estate market. That means that the renters’ paradise days are over.

“It’s going to change,” he said. “Because as we see with the vacancy rate that’s under two per cent and probably at one per cent in the coming years, things will change. It’s going to be very difficult for tenants.”