Residents of the Plateau Mont-Royal have recently been faced with a crisis that disproportionately affects marginalized communities: renoviction. According to British Columbia’s provincial website, “renoviction” is used to describe an eviction that is carried out to renovate or repair a rental unit, a process closely related to the greater problem of gentrification. Cases like this have been present for much longer in neighbourhoods such as Verdun, Cote-des-Neiges, St-Henri, Centre-Sud, and Hochelaga. It is heavily connected to the Airbnb crisis, wherein despite local short-term housing laws, a number of affordable housing units are being renovated – only to be listed on Airbnb.
Since spring 2019, Facebook groups such as Chez Queer Montreal and Gentrification Montreal have been flooded with discussions of renoviction by community members providing advice on the subject. The Comité logement du Plateau Mont- Royal reported receiving at least 221 calls from tenants at risk of losing their homes to renoviction between April 1, 2019 and December 1, 2019. Housing advocates have labelled the situation a crisis. “We used to get 50 to 100 calls per year, from people complaining about being forced out of their apartments by landlords,” says Martin Blanchard, a community organizer with the Comité logement de la Petite Patrie, “now we get many hundreds every year.”
In order to recognize abuses of power from landlords, it is important for tenants to know the laws in place that strive to protect them from renoviction. For instance, owners can only evict a tenant when they want to divide up the rental unit, demolish it, enlarge it or change what it is used for. Furthermore, an owner is not allowed to evict or repossess an apartment on several conditions, including if the tenant or the tenant’s spouse is 70 years or older, has lived in the apartment for 10 or more years, or has an annual income that makes them eligible for low-rental housing (HLM). However, not all at-risk groups are necessarily protected under similar laws. If an eviction does occur, the owner must pay the tenant both compensation equal to three months’ rent and reasonable moving expenses. There are also restrictions regarding reasonable notice for eviction: in the case of a lease that is longer than six months, tenants must be notified six months prior to the termination of the lease.
Supporting affordable and accessible community housing initiatives is an effective way to fight back against renoviction. In 2019, SSMU created the Affordable Student Housing Committee as a part of the portfolio of VP External Affairs. According to SSMU Services Representative Noah Merali, the committee’s goals “are to research the problems surrounding housing in Montreal, consult with students and student groups to better understand their needs, promote existing housing options, work with Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant (UTILE) and other groups to plan new housing options, and work with the Legal Information Clinic at McGill to educate students on their housing rights.” Students can get involved by attending a town hall meeting on Monday January 27th at 5p.m. at 3590 Jeanne-Mance, to talk about making housing more affordable for students.
If you are facing the threat of renoviction, consult the housing and legal resources on page nine of this issue. Even if you’re not, consider supporting people who are, by becoming a member of your local housing committee – for many McGill students, this is the Comité Logement du Plateau Mont-Royal. To avoid rising rent and gentrification, consider a lease transfer as opposed to letting your landlord reassign the apartment – this ensures that the incoming tenant pays similar costs as you did. The Facebook group Cession de bail et sous-location Montréal (Lease assignment and subletting Montreal) can help facilitate this process.