There’s been strong reaction to Quebec Premier François Legault’s estimate of the price of rent in Montreal.
A lowball guess has earned him the label of being ‘out of touch’ and prompted concern over whether the government’s top officials truly understand the housing crisis.
Wednesday in the national assembly, while talking about the return of students to school in the fall, Manon Massé of Québec solidaire asked the premier if he knew what the average cost of rent was in Montreal. Legault said rents probably start at $500 or $600 a month, rising quickly to $1,000.
“I simply don’t think that’s true,” laughed McGill University student Ella Hanneson-Chwenger, as she and her roommate Ella Biché prepare to leave a two-bedroom apartment on Sainte-Famille Street in the area known as the McGill ghetto where a large concentration of students live.
According to the two friends, rent costs them nearly $1,400, split between them. The place they’re moving to in Westmount is bigger but isn’t much more expensive, hence the reason for the move. Both wonder where Legault came up with his estimate.
“Maybe he’s not in touch with what it’s really like to live here,” mused Biché.
Darby MacDonald of Project Genesis, a community organization that supports tenants, agrees.
“I mean it’s offensive to tenants,” she said of Legault’s guess. “They’re really hard-hit by this pandemic.”
MacDonald believes the premier doesn’t care that there are tenants who can’t manage and pointed out rents are increasing too quickly.
“The average rent in Montreal at this time is $891, she told Global News. “Five years ago it was $735. There’s been a 20 per cent increase and only a 7 per cent increase in inflation.”
She pointed out that better rent control is needed, because people are living in what she said are horrible conditions and they can’t afford to live anywhere else.
On Thursday Legault tried to clarify what he meant.
“What I said is that the rent for a student starts at $500 or $600 a month, it gets to $1,000 fast,” he told reporters, “and many students are two or three together to pay the rent.”
Hanneson-Chwenger and Biché pay more than $600 each, for one apartment.
Housing advocates say they want want the government to understand the urgency of the housing crisis.