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Quebec, Ottawa to invest $3.7 billion in social, affordable housing

Click to play video 'Quebec and Canada sign ‘historic’ social housing deal' Quebec and Canada sign ‘historic’ social housing deal
WATCH: A $3.7-billion agreement between Ottawa and Quebec is being called “historic” by both federal and provincial officials. As Global’s Felicia Parrillo reports, the money has been earmarked for social and affordable housing needs – Oct 6, 2020

In an agreement dubbed “historic” by the federal and provincial governments, they announced Tuesday that $3.7 billion would be invested to improve social and affordable housing in Quebec.

The announcement was made by Sonia Lebel, minister responsible for Canadian relations and the Canadian Francophonie, and Andrée Laforest, minister of municipal affairs and housing, who were joined virtually by Ahmed Hussen, federal minister of families, children and social development, and government House leader Pablo Rodriguez.

“No money was left on the table,” said Lebel. “We got what we needed to get — we got our fair share. But we got it in the sense that we can now invest it where we know it’s best to invest it.”

Read more: Quebec budget — social housing funding falls short of Montreal, community groups’ expectations

The new deal, which has been in negotiations for years, allows Quebec to retain the right to review all projects — a major element that the province has been pushing for before solidifying the agreement.

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“Sometimes it’s not just a matter of getting the money, it’s to make sure that we could spend this money in the right places,” said Lebel.

Read more: Coronavirus — Quebec government loan for low-income renters comes under fire

The investment is expected to create between 2,800 and 4,000 new housing units across the province and allow for the renovation of several existing housing units.

But some say more is needed to improve the dire housing crisis in Quebec.

“It’s not enough,” said Youssef Benzouine, an organizer for the tenants’ rights group Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU).

“We need more investments in social housing and we need more investments right now. People, they cannot wait.”

For him and others, there are still a lot of questions to be answered.

Read more: Québec Solidaire says government failing to upkeep vacant units amid Montreal housing crisis

“We’re definitely searching for, looking for and expecting social housing to be central in the way these funds are allocated, and in a greater way than just repairing buildings,” said Darby MacDonald, community organizer with Project Genesis.

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“We know that there are 12 social housing buildings in Montreal that are sitting empty because they are in such desperate need of repairs that they are unlivable, but we also need new social housing projects to be developed.”

Last month, the mayors of Montreal, Quebec City and Gatineau applauded the initiative after an agreement in principle was reached, saying it couldn’t come soon enough.

Read more: Quebec mayors say tentative agreement on social housing a ‘victory’

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said at the time that nearly 150,000 families in the city are waiting for adequate, affordable housing.

The city is also in the throes of a housing crisis, with vacancies for rentals at a 15-year low. The shortage has also been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic in recent months.

The two-tier government funding agreement will span a period of 10 years, from 2018 until 2028.

— With files from Global News’ Annabelle Olivier and Kalina Laframboise and The Canadian Press