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Quebec minister tables bill to restrict evictions for three years amid housing crunch

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Quebec's housing minister acknowledged on Wednesday that the province is in a housing crisis, as she tabled a bill that would impose a three-year moratorium on certain types of evictions and boost protections for low-income renters aged 65 and older.

France-Élaine Duranceau's proposed legislation would prevent landlords from evicting renters in order to subdivide, enlarge or change the use of a housing unit.

"An eviction or the threat of an eviction causes immense stress, and we want to prevent as many Quebecers as possible from finding themselves in that situation given the few alternatives at their disposal right now," she told a news conference.

"In a crisis context, losing one's housing can have immense consequences which can lead to homelessness, so we must avoid that,” she added.

An owner would still be allowed to repossess a unit for a close family member.

The moratorium would last three years but would end early if the rental vacancy rate for all Quebec cities with more than 10,000 people reaches three per cent. The vacancy rate was 1.5 per cent in Montreal in January, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Duranceau's bill would also extend Quebec's law against evicting low-income seniors to cover people beginning at age 65 instead of 70, and it would raise the income at which a person becomes eligible. The government estimates that some 24,000 households would be protected by this new measure.

The seniors eviction law is named after former Québec solidaire co-spokesperson Françoise David, and Duranceau on Wednesday acknowledged the left-wing rival party's contribution to the expansion of the legislation. Members of Québec solidaire have long pushed for the measures in the bill, and met with Duranceau several times to discuss the changes.

"We share the objective of protecting the most vulnerable people from the impacts of the crisis and we have had very good collaboration on this issue so far," Duranceau said.

Wednesday's announcement represented a shift for the minister, who has been criticized in the past for a housing bill that allowed landlords to reject lease transfers, which are a popular tool tenants have used for years to limit rent increases. During detailed studies of that bill, Duranceau rejected proposals from opposition parties to increase protections for seniors, insisting that her legislation included sufficient measures to shield people of all ages from evictions.

Her change of heart, she said Wednesday, was due to the shifting situation, including the "massive arrival of non-permanent residents" to the province. And she said she wasn't ruling out further legislation to address the housing crisis as the situation evolves.

There was mixed reaction to the announcement, ranging from praise from Québec solidaire to criticism from the Liberals. Québec solidaire's Christine Labrie said the bill was "a revolution" in tackling the housing crisis, noting that the ideas it contained originated with her party.

Réseau FADOQ, a group representing seniors, said the bill was a big step forward in protecting older renters, adding, "We see that political pressure gets results."

Liberal member Virginie Dufour called the bill a "charm operation" that would do little to solve the lack of housing, but said her party would still support it.

That sentiment was echoed by a group representing landlords and building managers, which said the bill's intentions were "laudable" but that it "will not help resolve the widespread housing shortage, which continues to grow."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 22, 2024. 

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