Gentrification forcing St. Henri-based tenants' rights group to move

A St. Henri-based lobby group that's been fighting gentrification and soaring rents says it has now become a victim of both.

The group POPIR says it can no longer afford to stay in its longtime headquarters on Notre Dame St., a block away from the Place St. Henri metro station.

The group says the building which houses its offices has been sold, and the new owners are raising rents to market value — which POPIR's Olivier Prud'homme says is beyond what their community group can afford.

"We heard some news this past fall that the landlady was going to sell the building...and we knew we had no choice but to negotiate [a new lease], but we didn't have, really, much hope that the new landlord would keep us at such a low rent, especially with what's been happening in St. Henri with gentrification. All the prices on Notre-Dame St. are so high now."

Later this month, the group will be setting up shop in a new location in nearby Little Burgundy, but Prud'homme suggests the group's move is a prime example of the negative effects of gentrification — and an opportunity for the group to make its case.

"One of the biggest problems is that social housing doesn't follow the price of the rent," Prud'homme says. "The rents are getting higher, a lot of families are getting evicted. Now, we see this year is worse than it's been before."

Over the past decade and a half, Notre-Dame St. has been booming, with new bars and new businesses, but Prud'homme says for low-income residents of the neighborhood, many of whom have lived there for decades, it's a boom that they aren't able to enjoy.

"We see that these people are living with the worst impacts of gentrification, since they are mostly leaving the neighborhood," Prud'homme says. "When they lose their apartment, they can't find anything else in St. Henri. The people who live in the neighborhood who've been there for many years can't take advantage of the new communities and the new places. They cannot afford it anymore."