Quebec budget: social housing funding falls short of Montreal, community groups’ expectations

The Quebec government‘s big spending increases in green and environmental initiatives hit many of the marks on Montreal’s long wish list for the provincial budget, but concerns are being raised over a lack of funding to build new social and affordable housing.

Mayor Valérie Plante commended the province’s plans in the fight against climate change and investments in major public transit projects, but she said the city’s housing needs are under-served.

“I am disappointed with the lack of investments for new social housing projects,” she said on social media.

The Coalition Avenir Québec government’s budget, which projects a $2.7-billion surplus, increases program spending by 5.1 per cent over the last fiscal year.

As part of the plan, the province is devoting $150 million toward previously announced social and affordable housing units across the province — but it fell short of Plante’s expectations.

Her wish list had asked for $320 million to build 6,000 social housing units by 2021 and an additional $100 million to construct apartments under its Réflexe Montréal initiative from 2017.

The growing housing shortage in the city has concerned politicians, residents and community groups alike for months. In Montreal, renters are facing a 15-year low for vacancies.

Social housing advocacy groups argue the province’s funding doesn’t go far enough when it comes to helping vulnerable and low-income Quebecers as the July 1 moving day fast approaches.

The Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU) said in a statement that it is both disappointed and outraged over the move. The organization argues the government should have set aside money for new housing initiatives.

“It is not only completely irresponsible in the midst of the housing crisis not to plan a large social housing project for the years to come now, but it is unfair,” said spokesperson Véronique Laflamme.

The Association des groupes de ressources techniques du Québec, a group that promotes the development of community housing in the province, said the government is “abandoning people in need.”

“Cities and communities across Quebec have sounded the alarm over the housing shortage and the urgency to act now,” said president Alain Marcoux in a statement. “We are extremely disappointed to see so little interest and compassion in the problems of access to housing.”

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