(Quebec) Quebec is facing a “perfect storm” with the explosion of homelessness and the housing crisis, says François Legault. Minister Lionel Carmant announces an envelope of 15.5 million in new money to build shelters before winter.
“It’s kind of like a perfect storm. First, there is a problem of drug consumption, (…) that leads to all kinds of mental health problems. Obviously, there is also a housing crisis that comes on top of that. (…) We still invested a lot in the first mandate, but there is an update coming in November (and) we will have to do more,” the Prime Minister declared on Thursday.
According to Mr. Legault, the mental health resources that have been added to date are not enough to meet the increase in demand. For the Minister responsible for Social Services, Lionel Carmant, “the moment is crucial”. He and his colleague at Housing, France-Élaine Duranceau, reacted Thursday to the publication of data from the most recent count on homelessness. The phenomenon is exploding in Quebec and has jumped 44% in five years. It now affects all regions of the province.
“We have seen the figures, they are worrying. However, we kind of expected it. I toured Quebec this summer, I spoke with mayors, organizations, and we expected it. (…) We have to break the trend,” said Mr. Carmant in the press scrum. “I asked the ministry to approve all the projects that will be implemented by this winter,” he added.
This directive means that shelter development projects submitted by the CISSS and CIUSSS will receive the green light from Quebec. The Minister of Finance authorized additional sums of 15.5 million to carry out these initiatives. Added to this is an amount of 7 million, already planned in the last Girard budget, of which 2.5 million was committed for a shelter for Indigenous people in Montreal.
Minister Lionel Carmant is eagerly awaited at the Municipal Summit on Homelessness, which is being held on Friday in Quebec. He hopes that the amounts announced Thursday will help reduce the tension between the mayors and the Legault government. Last week, after a frontal attack on him from the mayor of Gatineau, the minister called on municipal elected officials “to lower their voices”.
At least 10,000 people were experiencing visible homelessness on the night of October 11, 2022, according to data from the most recent count. And the main cause of housing loss now: evictions.
The Minister of Housing defends the Legault government for having recognized the housing crisis too late.
“Since I took office, all I do is unblock projects,” she assured. “There have never been so many housing projects being financed. There are 12,000 projects currently funded. There, they have to come out of the ground, then we are stuck with the time it takes to build. But I tell you, there have never been so many,” pleaded Minister Duranceau.
According to her, Quebec is facing a “perfect storm”. The minister calls on municipalities to accelerate the construction of social housing on their territory. “Everyone must have the same sense of urgency,” she indicated Thursday, at the same time as special consultations opened on Bill 31, which modifies various legislative provisions relating to dwelling.
One of the provisions of the legislative text would allow owners to refuse a request for transfer of lease “for a reason other than a serious reason”, which sows controversy since the transfer of lease is considered as a lever against increases in abusive rent for tenants. “The correlation (between) lease assignment and homelessness, I don’t think it’s the right one,” said Mr.me Duranceau.
Prime Minister François Legault was more nuanced. “We will look at the pros and cons. There has to be a balance, because what we want, among other things, is for there to be more owners who build more housing,” he said.
Could the government change its mind regarding lease transfers? “We’re not ruling anything out at this point,” he said.
Towards special help
Mme Duranceau revealed that his ministry is working on “financial aid for individuals” affected by the housing crisis. “(These measures) presuppose certain legislative changes, so I cannot tell you about it now, but it is in the cards,” she said.
Last week, Prime Minister François Legault revealed that he plans to provide “special assistance” to the most vulnerable people who “suffer” from the cost of living crisis. This aid could be announced during the government’s economic update in November.
In an editorial interview at The Press, the Minister of Finance, Eric Girard, affirmed that “targeted measures” for housing, homelessness and adaptation to climate change are in his pipeline. The minister notably promised additional funds to build social and affordable housing.
With Hugo Pilon-Larose
(As a) result of the pandemic, there are a lot of commercial premises that are empty. What we would be asking is cities, governments, owners to sit down together with community organizations to identify commercial premises that could be converted into emergency and transitional accommodation sites.
Marc Tanguay, interim leader of the Quebec Liberal Party
The leading cause of homelessness today in 2022, and probably 2023 as well, is evictions. We’ve been talking about it for five years and we finally realize that the government and France-Élaine Duranceau and Lionel Carmant did not listen to the recommendations made by Québec solidaire.
Étienne Grandmont, member of Québec solidaire
The result of his work is catastrophic, so we have to work even harder. Efforts must be increased. Above all, the means must be substantial. And clearly, the work he is doing is not giving the expected results.
Joël Arseneau, member of the Parti Québécois