Quebec improves rent supplement program as July 1 approaches

While the Francois Legault government fails to acknowledge the existence of a housing crisis, the province has announced a last-minute improvement in assistance for tenants in need.

With three weeks to go before July 1, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Andree Laforest is increasing the rent supplement program (PSL) envelope by $60 million and relaxing the eligibility criteria in order to offer this supplement to 2,500 more households.

As a result, 1,500 households will be able to obtain an emergency PSL, which allows a household to pay only 25 per cent of its income in rent, but in a unit that can be up to 50 per cent more expensive than the median market rent in the municipality in question.

Of these emergency PSLs, 400 are reserved for people experiencing homelessness and 100 for women experiencing domestic violence.

The remaining 1,000 PSLs are intended to support households who will be able to find housing where the rent is 10 per cent higher than the median market rent in their municipality.

$2 MILLION FOR MUNICIPALITIES

In addition, $2 million is being provided to municipalities to assist households in distress within their jurisdiction.

A news release issued by Laforest's office gives the example of temporary housing and storage of goods. Also, Quebec is eliminating the vacancy rate criterion for municipalities to be eligible for these funds.

In any case, the latest data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) shows vacancy rates well below the break-even point in almost all Quebec cities, which means there is a shortage of rental housing.

The Union des municipalites du Quebec (UMQ) was quick to react, saying it welcomed Laforest's action plan to support households looking for a place to live.

The UMQ underlines that "all regions are facing important needs in terms of housing."

Aide d’urgence pour le logement - Un plan d’action nécessaire pour le 1er juillet, selon l’#UMQ.

Communiqué �� https://t.co/XCzqN5u93M#polqc #polmun pic.twitter.com/NUYtNKXsaN

— UMQ (@UMQuebec) June 11, 2021

Households that are unable to find housing can seek help from the Societe d'habitation du Quebec (SHQ), whose hours have been extended on the weekends of June 26-27 and July 3-4.

SHQ staff can be reached toll-free at 1-(800)-463-4315.

Municipal housing authorities are also ready to provide emergency services to tenants in need on July 1.

Since May 31, they have been empowered to sign leases to build up a supply of available units for households in need.

Several announcements to build social and affordable housing have been made by all levels of government over the past few months, but these have been slow to materialize while the private market is booming and households are struggling to keep up with rising rent pressures.

-- This report by the Canadian Press was first published in French on June 11, 2021. 

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