Two years ago, they feared they were about to be renovicted. Now residents of a Plateau-Mont-Royal apartment building in Montreal are declaring victory after their home was purchased by a non-profit organization.
It took countless hours of advocacy and protests, but tenants at Manoir Lafontaine say all their hard work has paid off.
After two years of anxiety, 78-year-old Francine Goyette is all smiles.
“I had happy tears this morning instead of sad tears,” she told Global News.
Goyette and others living at the Manoir Lafontaine on Papineau Avenue say they’ve just won a hard-fought battle.
“It’s like a dream,” said tenant Renée Thifault, 70.
Back in 2021, residents of the 80-unit building right across from Lafontaine Park were plunged into uncertainty when the building owner, Hillpark, told them they’d need to leave their homes for seven months due to renovations.
They assumed if they were even able to come back after the work was done, their reasonable rents would skyrocket
They refused to leave.
“I told people to fight and I decided to fight,” said Thifault. “I was going to fight until I couldn’t do it anymore.”
First came the big blue protest banners on the balconies, which attracted a lot of attention.
From there, a movement was born. Resident Pascal Lavoie, 32, became one of its leaders.
“We organized, we did strikes in front of the building. we hired a lawyer to build up the case,” he recounted in an interview.
Their fight brought awareness to the city’s affordable housing crisis, and just how many people were getting renovicted.
“I was naive and I’m not naive anymore,” said Thifault. “That is sad because renovictions are a way to make money, but also to make many people poorer, to make many people suffer.”
After two years of putting pressure on the building’s owner, Hillpark has officially sold Manoir Lafontaine to Interloge, a non-profit organization operating since 1978 that owns over 900 units. The price tag was $18 million, with a chunk of that coming from the City of Montreal.
“Our business model is to provide affordable housing to low-income and modest-income Montrealers,” explained Louis-Philippe Myre, Interloge’s general manager.
The remaining dozen or so residents are unanimously thrilled. They said Interloge has consistent lines of communication with them, has been clear with their intentions, and has their trust.
“It’s a victory for us,” said Lavoie.
“Finally we’re going to have a life,” said Goyette.
The residents specifically offered thanks to politicians who helped them, their MNA, Quebec Solidaire’s Manon Massé in particular.
“She met us very, very often in the park to encourage us,” said Thifault.
At the National Assembly, Massé told Global News she was thrilled.
“I’m so happy. You know, we have been fighting with these citizens for two years now. This is great news today. I’m very happy,” she said.
Massé underlined that affordable housing is growing increasingly rare in Quebec, especially in desirable areas like the Plateau.
“When the ex-landlord said to them ‘you have to get out,’ they knew it would be impossible to come back,” she said.
Massé appreciates the thanks from the residents.
“I’m happy, but this is my job,” she said.
There will be three years of renovations, but unlike the previous owner Interloge says it will find the residents temporary homes, and the residents believe them.
They hope their experience gives others in their situation the will to fight.
“You have rights. You need to be respected by people. So, fight. That’s it,” said Lavoie, who admits the battle was tough but says he’s proud to have stuck it through, especially to help his elderly neighbours.
“We have to fight. It makes no sense that you cannot pay rent and feed your family at the same time,” said Thifault.