Tenants rights advocates say households without a residence numbers post July 1 worst they've been in 20 years

Housing rights advocates FRAPRU say more than 500 households still haven't found a place to live the day after July 1, which is the worst the number has been in two decades.

The estimate is actually well below the real number of tenants who have not yet signed a lease, as the Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU) can only count households that have applied for assistance.

This excludes those who did not contact them because there were no services in their municipality or because they managed on their own.

Last year, the organization counted only 350 households that were not well taken care of after July 1, the "official moving day" in Quebec.

FRAPRU spokesperson Veronique Laflamme said that there are two facets to consider: the lack of housing and its high cost, which makes it out of reach for families or single people with modest incomes.

"Households without a signed lease as of July 1 are just the tip of the iceberg," said Laflamme. "Many are paying rents beyond their means, and are having to do without other essentials: they are cutting back on groceries, for example. Food bank use is on the rise, and that's partly because of the high cost of housing."

Those who have not yet found a home are either staying with relatives, sleeping in their cars or have received help from their municipality, she said.

At the same time, FRAPRU is pleased that more municipalities have set up an emergency assistance service for homeless households.

In Montreal, in addition to offering temporary housing, the city provides assistance with storage and moving, "which has helped tenants deal with an already stressful reality."

The group also said it appreciates the Quebec government's improvements to its emergency assistance program, but it says that the assistance measures were announced too late for many people who accepted inadequate solutions to avoid ending up on the street.

FRAPRU said these emergency measures are only a temporary band-aid, and that it is necessary to act on the causes of this housing crisis which is very real.

"We need more affordable social housing as well as cooperative housing," said FRAPRU.

FRAPRU is asking the government to launch a social housing project of 50,000 units over five years, in addition to finding solutions to the excessive rent increases requested by landlords and to a rise in so-called renovictions.

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on July 2, 2021. 

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