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With Moving Day looming, Montreal rolls out plan to help everyone secure housing
MONTREAL -- With Montreal’s Moving Day just over a month away, the city has rolled out a plan to ensure no one is left behind on July 1.
It's a stressful day for the 80,000 to 100,000 households that change homes every year, but there are added anxieties this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city’s vacancy rate is at a mere 1.5 per cent, and that means there are likely hundreds of residents in peril of losing their homes.
Officials are urging anyone whose housing situation is in jeopardy to call 311. They will be directed to resources to help them find housing or rent subsidies. Some 87,000 households pay more than 50 per cent of their income to housing, making them vulnerable to losing if rents are increased.
"It is very important to us not to leave anyone behind,” said Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante at a Wednesday afternoon news conference.
Last July 1, the city helped some 200 households find a home, and it is expecting that number could double or triple this year. Plante likened it to the year 2000, when a 1 per cent vacancy rate left hundreds of households in need of urgent housing.
So far this year, 144 households have called 311 asking for assistance.
The city is working to secure housing, both temporary and permanent.
It is asking landlords to help out by:
- reaching a reasonable agreement with their current residents if possible
- converting any AirBNB rentals into permanent housing
- contacting the city if they have any housing to rent, even if it is only very short-term ahead of planned renovations.
"We need all the housing available, and it is by sticking together that we will get through this period of uncertainty,” said executive committee member Robert Beaudry.
Plante said the city is working with local hotels to secure temporary housing if apartments are not available. The city is also working with boroughs to find storage space for residents’ furniture in the interim period.
“We will make sure you have a bed to sleep in and we’ll put all your stuff in safe storage,” said Plante.
The city has increased the budget for its municipal housing office, the OMHM, to help put these measures in place. With that budgetary increase, Plante made an urgent cri de coeur to the government of Quebec for $5 million in emergency funding and to update the Emergency Rent Supplement Program (PSL) with increased subsidy ceilings to better support Montreal households in need.
"As every year, the City of Montreal will support households that are struggling to find new housing. But higher governments must also do their part,” said Plante. “We must be able to ensure access to social and affordable housing for households in need, and this regulation will greatly contribute to it."
MOVING AMID A PANDEMIC
The city said it is also working with Montreal police to ensure that guidelines are respected - but no one is ticketed - while moving.
"Not everyone has the luxury of hiring movers," said Plante, adding that the city is sensitive to the fact that many people will have to move and won't be able to follow strict two-metre distancing protocols.
Beaudry reminded people who are moving to do their best to follow health and safety protocols, including wearing face masks, washing hands frequently and not sharing food or drinks.