This year's moving day marked by high eviction numbers

Hundreds of Quebecers were left without leases this July 1.  (Rowan Kennedy/CBC - image credit)
Hundreds of Quebecers were left without leases this July 1. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC - image credit)

As is usually the case following moving day, hundreds of Quebec households have yet to find a new home.

But moving companies are noticing a new trend: fewer people are moving on July 1 due to a high number of evictions and unit repossessions.

Pierre-Olivier Cyr, co-owner of one of Quebec's largest moving companies, Le Clan Panneton, said his business was only booked at half capacity Monday because most people moved in the few days before or after instead.

He says it's because landlords who evict their tenants have to pay for their moving expenses and want to avoid the higher fees on July 1. About 40 per cent of his clients this year were evicted, much more than last year, he said.

This year, 40 per cent of customers at one of Quebec’s largest moving companies, Le Clan Panneton, were evicted from their homes, according to co-owner Pierre-Olivier Cyr.
This year, 40 per cent of customers at one of Quebec’s largest moving companies, Le Clan Panneton, were evicted from their homes, according to co-owner Pierre-Olivier Cyr.

This year, 40 per cent of customers at one of Quebec’s largest moving companies, Le Clan Panneton, were evicted from their homes, according to co-owner Pierre-Olivier Cyr. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC)

Cyr also says his company's storage facilities are filled beyond capacity while people wait to find a place to live as hundreds have been left without a lease.

"We received a lot of phone calls from people who want to move and reserved the date, but they don't know where they're going.… People are not finding a place to live or storage so it's a really difficult psychological situation to manage for the tenants," he said.

"The authorities will have to do something because in a few years it will be catastrophic."

Still searching for a home

For hundreds of other Montrealers, it's been a headache to find a home. The Office municipal d'habitation de Montréal (OMHM) said it received 811 requests for help finding housing since Jan. 1. It helped 244 tenants in their search and temporarily lodged 38 households while they wait for stable housing.

Meanwhile, on Monday the Société d'habitation du Québec (SHQ) said it was temporarily housing 125 households in hotels — 63 of which were in Montreal — and noted that another 259 households are temporarily living with loved ones in the province.

As of Thursday, the SHQ is temporarily housing 150 households in hotels — 79 in Montreal — while another 263 are living with loved ones while looking for a new place.

The SHQ says it already processed over 9,500 housing assistance requests since January and that 2,251 — from households with leases — are still active.

'Tip of the iceberg'

Catherine Lussier, a co-ordinator with the housing group Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU), says Montreal's housing situation is hard, particularly for low-income tenants who cannot afford what is on the market right now.

The official numbers are the "tip of the iceberg" because a lot of people will move back in with their parents or seek help elsewhere before reaching out for housing support services, she said.

"It's hard when there's not a lot of availability and not a lot of affordability," Lussier said on Monday.

Lussier pointed to the sharp increases in rent prices and a lack of subsidized housing. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) estimates that the average rent increase for a two-bedroom apartment in Montreal was 18.9 per cent for apartments with a new tenant, compared to 5.7 per cent for apartments with the same tenant as the previous year.

FRAPRU's Catherine Lussier says she is happy to partner with the city, but it needs to do more to build up its social housing stock.
FRAPRU's Catherine Lussier says she is happy to partner with the city, but it needs to do more to build up its social housing stock.

FRAPRU's Catherine Lussier says there's a lack of available and affordable housing all over Quebec. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC)

FRAPRU said in a news release Thursday that the numbers are even more concerning taking into account that fewer people moved this year. In the last five years, the turnover rate in Quebec dropped from 18.6 per cent to 10.4 per cent, according to the organization's data.

And that's not counting those who signed a lease to a place that is too expensive, too small, rundown or stayed in inadequate housing out of fear of not finding a new place, said Véronique Laflamme, a FRAPRU spokesperson.

According to the latest Statistics Canada census, 130,000 Canadian households were spending half their income on housing in 2021.

Laflamme says Quebec must commit to building at least 10,000 units of social housing per year over the next 15 years. However, some 8,000 units promised by the Coalition Avenir Québec in its first mandate have yet to get off the ground, she said.

"To prevent tenants from being uprooted from their neighbourhoods and communities from becoming even more fragile with every July 1, and to stop tenants compromising their well-being for the benefit of real estate investors, the social housing alternative must become the norm," Laflamme said in a news release Thursday.

Meanwhile, the city of Montreal encourages anyone who needs help finding housing to call 311.

"Moving is a stressful time for many Montrealers, who are increasingly finding it difficult to find housing options that meet their needs and budget," said a spokesperson for the city of Montreal in a statement earlier this week.