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373 Quebec families without leases after province-wide moving day, housing group says

Click to play video 'Hundreds of Montreal area residents homeless after annual moving day' Hundreds of Montreal area residents homeless after annual moving day
WATCH: After sitting empty for months, some local hotels are welcoming new visitors, but not for a happy reason. With Montreal's vacancy rate at an all time low, many families are finding themselves out on the street with nowhere to go. Global's Tim Sargeant explains. – Jul 2, 2020

Quebec’s traditional July 1 moving day has come and gone for another summer, but a housing advocacy group says  hundreds of families across the province are still without a lease.

The Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU) said on Thursday that 373 households have not secured a new lease and are still looking for a new apartment — the highest that number has been since 2003.

“It says a lot about the housing crisis in several cities,” said spokeswoman Véronique Laflamme in a statement.

The majority of families — 182 — live in Montreal, according to FRAPRU. The vacancy rate in the renters’ city sits at 1.5 per cent, the lowest it has been in 15 years.

Craig Sauvé, one of the city councillors responsible for housing, said Montreal has put up 43 residents and their families who did not sign new leases by July 1 in hotels.

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“I think it’s extremely challenging for the people themselves who are in difficult situations,” said Sauvé. “It’s traumatic and it’s very stressful.”

READ MORE: Montrealers face added complications of COVID-19, renovictions on moving day

FRAPRU said dozens of families outside of Montreal have not found a new home, including 23 in Longueuil and 34 in Laval. In Quebec City, 34 households have not signed a new lease and in Sherbrooke, the number is 42.

In Quebec, thousands of tenants see their leases end on June 30, leading to a complicated Canada Day of apartment swapping and moving. However, this year’s traditional moving day was compounded by the housing crunch and the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Montrealers moved in droves on Wednesday, Carlos Barlett told Global News he wished to move out of his Cote-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace home, but was having a hard time finding another place within his budget.

“Affording them is the problem,” he said, adding that many apartments have become expensive in Montreal.

READ MORE: Montreal renovation program for low-rise apartment buildings prompts concerns from housing advocates

FRAPRU, for its part, said 1,350 families requested the organization’s help to find new housing. The housing advocacy group is calling on the provincial government — which implemented measures to help tenants amid the health crisis — to fund the creation of 10,000 more affordable apartments in the coming year.

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“These figures also do not take into account all the households that have resigned themselves to renting an overpriced apartment, who had to accept an unwanted roommate, or all those who find themselves on the street, between two homes, at friends’, or sleeping in their car, without contacting help,” said Laflamme.

Sauvé said it will take a sustained effort over the next decade to fix the ongoing apartment crunch.

“This is not something that can be fixed in one year,” he said

The Société d’habitation du Québec (SHQ), which is part of the government’s housing ministry, said in statement it helped 522 families find permanent or temporary lodging by July 1. The work is ongoing as long as households apply for assistance, according to the SHQ.

With files from Global News’ Tim Sargeant and the Canadian Press

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