(Montreal) The Popular Action Front for Urban Redevelopment (FRAPRU) is asking the Quebec government to double the number of social housing units in the province within 15 years.

The organization bringing together housing committees and citizen associations made this request on Sunday, following a three-day congress in Sherbrooke.

“In the past, we already had this desire to say, we must increase the share [of social housing] to meet the needs of low- and modest-income tenant households, many of whom were already spending too much significant portion of their income for housing. But here, there is a sense of urgency that has been added in recent years with the shortage of rental housing and the rampant unaffordability. Rents are increasing rapidly everywhere,” said Véronique Laflamme, spokesperson for FRAPRU, in an interview.

“For that, we need programs that are adapted both for new construction and for exiting the market for still affordable rental properties. We provide ourselves with a perspective with targets, and the means to get there,” continued Ms. Laflamme, indicating that this is the new direction on which FRAPRU will work.

The FRAPRU spokesperson clarified that this does not mean that we should stop establishing new social housing after 15 years, but that this request rather represents “a minimum”.

“At all levels, the Cities, the Quebec government, the federal government are telling us: we must build to get out of the crisis. But the observation that we are making, and which is being made almost everywhere, is that if we build anything, we will not get out of the crisis. If the solution is only to build new private housing, we will increase the problem of unaffordability,” argued Ms. Laflamme.

“We must ensure that we have minimal construction of non-profit housing from which no one makes a profit, which will meet the needs of low- and modest-income households, who are the most affected by this crisis and who , already, are often one unexpected moment away from falling into a situation of homelessness,” she added.

The vacancy rate was low in several cities in 2023, according to the annual report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). In Greater Montreal, the vacancy rate increased from 2% to 1.5% in 2023. In Quebec, the vacancy rate fell to 0.9%, its lowest level in 15 years, according to CMHC . However, the vacancy rate remained stable in the Quebec part of the Ottawa-Gatineau census metropolitan area in 2023, standing at 1.1%.

FRAPRU expects July 1 to be difficult again this year, particularly due to low vacancy rates and rent increases, said Ms. Laflamme.

“We must not forget that, despite the fact that the search for housing is very difficult, there are all these households who live in situations of poor housing, housing that is already too expensive, in housing in poor condition, in housing that is too small for their family, who have no alternative and who remain in their homes for fear of ending up on the street,” she added, saying she fears that these situations will be normalized.

Ms. Laflamme also indicated that FRAPRU notes that the demand for rehousing assistance services is in several cases increasing.

“There are no longer many regions that are spared from this phenomenon of tenant households at risk of being homeless as July 1 approaches,” said Ms. Laflamme. She indicates that apart from large centers, cities like Trois-Rivières, Granby, Sherbrooke and Rimouski are also affected by the housing crisis.