Tenants slam boroughs for weakened renoviction plan, physically bar Parc-Ex office

A fight over renovations and “renovictions” is coming to a head across the city, with two protests on Tuesday and Wednesday at borough offices across town from each other.

In Parc-Extension, on Wednesday, residents and a housing group blocked the entrance to their borough office.

A bylaw was created in March to limit landlords’ ability to evict their tenants, but the protesters said it hasn’t proved to be strong enough.

"It happened to me,” said one local man, Gabriel Cavero.

“After 32 years living in Montreal, it happened to me. I have nothing. When I arrived home my bag was in the street, suitcase in the street.”

Parc-Extension has been the site of some dramatic changes in housing in the past few years, as some of the city’s lowest rent has begun to climb at a frantic pace, especially after the Université de Montreal’s new campus was built on the neighbourhood’s edge.

A housing group present at the Wednesday protest argued that longtime residents of Parc-Ex, who have helped build up the neighbourhood, are being suddenly pushed out.

They said the borough and city are caving to landlords’ wishes. The bylaw was supposed to limit landlords’ rights to evict people so they could divide, merge or renovate their units.

A Parc-Ex borough councillor said the original idea was too restrictive, however, for building owners that wanted to merge units to accommodate their own growing families.

"Our will as an administration, both locally and at the city level, is to make sure we can keep our families in Montreal,” said Rosanne Filato, a Villeray-Parc-Extension city councillor.

Amy Darwish of the Parc Extension Action Committee, which helped lead the demonstration, said the same goes for the renting families.

“What families are they talking about, really?” she said. “Is it only those who are white and middle-class and able to access property? Is everyone else disposable and displaceable?”

Councillor Filato argued that even a flawed bylaw is better than no bylaw.

"This motion was a way to find a consensus and to have a bylaw. Without this consensus there would be no bylaw,” she said.

Cavero, the tenant who was evicted, said it feels like “all the doors are closing.”

A night earlier, on Tuesday, tenants protested at the Sud-Ouest borough offices, demanding that a similar bylaw be strengthened.

At that protest, a southwest-based group called the POPIR Housing Committee said that ever since the bylaw was proposed in March, to help protect renters during the pandemic, it’s been watered down.

"What we see right now in the [southwest] borough, and in other boroughs in Montreal, is that they are making the bylaw a lot less strong, to accommodate the landlords who might want to evict their tenants,” said Sandrine Belley of POPIR.

In Parc-Extension, the bylaw must pass one more reading in council before tenants will actually begin to see any protection fron renovictions. 

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