The Quebec rental board turned 40 in October, but tenants rights advocates didn’t think it was too late to mark the anniversary Tuesday by drawing attention to what they see as a crisis for low-income renters.
Advocates held a protest near the Housing Tribunal Administration office on René Levesque Boulevard downtown Montreal, calling on the Quebec government to do more to control what they see as out-of-control rent increases.
“Every day we see tenants who can’t afford the rent,” said Saray Ortiz Torres from Project Genesis, an advocacy group that fights for better housing.
“We see people who live in horrible housing conditions and they’re unable to move because they can’t afford to move anywhere else.”
The protesters said it’s time the Quebec government put in place rent controls, because they said cost of rent is skyrocketing.
“Rents are increasing way too fast so tenants are getting poorer and poorer,” said Maxime Roy-Allard of the Coalition of Housing Committees that organized the demonstration.
“In order to make housing a fundamental right, rents should not increase by that much.”
They’re particularly concerned about the elderly on a fixed income, like Barrington Lowe who attended the protest and said he’s paying $800 for rent and is barely making ends meet.
“Well, I tell you the pension is not good,” he told Global News, “and what I’m getting is practically what I have to pay for rent.”
He said after that he hardly has anything left over for food and utilities. He wants to move to another apartment, but says he’s having trouble finding anything.
“It’s rough. Very rough,” he said, carrying a placard with the words, “If I can’t pay my rent I have to live in a tent.”
From the point of view of the protesters, the situation is far worse this year, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic
“We know that there are already homeless camps all around the city right now,” said Ortiz Torres.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing pointed to guidelines they issue annually for rent increases. The booklet includes formulas to calculate rate adjustments as well as an explanation of the tenants’ right to refuse a rent hike.
Advocates say the guide isn’t enough.
“Tenants don’t always know their rights and sometimes they just accept the rent increase,” Roy-Allard noted.
Furthermore, he argued, property owners are under no obligations to follow the guide. He said that’s why they plan to continue to push the government to make changes.