Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante has unveiled major changes to her administration’s new bylaw to promote social and affordable housing.
It’s perhaps no coincidence that Plante chose Nov. 5 to make the announcement. The three-year anniversary of her surprise election win that catapulted her and Projet Montréal into power at city hall seems a fitting day to launch her second attempt at a bylaw that, in many ways, is a manifesto of her vision for the city.
“I guess this is why I’m so confident today,” Plante said when addressing reporters. “Because I feel like we did the right thing.”
At the heart of the “Bylaw for a Diverse Metropolis”, as it’s known, is the 20-20-20 rule, something Plante and her party have been promising since the 2017 election campaign.
It requires developers to add 20 per cent each of social, affordable and family housing to any new build, and it stays intact in this new version of the bylaw.
The rule will, however, become more flexible.
For example, the new requirements for affordable housing, specifically, will at first only apply to the Nuns’ Island district of the borough of Verdun, as well as the borough of Saint-Laurent.
As well, due to the financial uncertainty for developers caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it will also only come into effect in April of 2021, not January.
Plante said she’s glad she got to work with stakeholders to improve the by-law.
“It is major, it’s going to change how Montreal is going to look, in the next years,” she said. “So it was important to hear everybody. Even some things that we didn’t agree with, or that we didn’t think of.”
But the concessions made in this version of the bylaw aren’t enough for everyone. In particular, opposition leader Lionel Perez decried the added costs the bylaw will put onto developers, which he says will be then passed on to those looking to buy a home.
“Since Montreal will be the only city to have these costs, promoters are going to go elsewhere because they’ll be able to build at a less expensive price, and then the cost will be cheaper off-island,” he told Global News.
In a statement on Wednesday, Montreal Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce president Michel Leblanc agreed.
“This approach would complicate the procedures for developers, would increase costs while causing these costs to shift over the price of other units, and would have the effect of reducing the interest in carrying out projects on the territory of Montreal,” he said.
Leblanc called on Plante to press pause entirely on the bylaw’s implementation.
Meanwhile, housing advocacy group FRAPRU said in a statement the new bylaw won’t go far enough on social housing.
The organization’s member in charge of Montreal issues, Caroline Lussier, said it is currently “difficult, if not impossible, to find decent housing — 20 per cent inclusion of social housing is really too little.”
Plante, however, believed that these compromises had to be made to preserve a city everyone can afford.
“I think everybody is so proud to say that Montreal is not like Toronto or Vancouver, because everyone can live here,” she said. “But we need to treasure that.”