Montreal’s Promise of Affordable Housing Falls Flat: Zero Units Created Two Years After New Bylaw Implementation
Two years following the announcement by Valérie Plante’s administration regarding the implementation of a groundbreaking housing bylaw promising the creation of 600 new social housing units annually, Montreal’s cityscape remains void of any such developments.
The Bylaw for a Diverse Metropolis
Enacted as the “Bylaw for a Diverse Metropolis,” this legislative measure mandates that developers integrate social, family, and, in certain instances, affordable housing units into new projects exceeding 4,843 square feet in size. Failure to adhere to these stipulations requires developers to either incur fines or transfer land, buildings, or individual units to the city, destined to be converted into affordable or social housing.
Lack of Progress: Data Analysis
Based on information unveiled by Ensemble Montréal, the official opposition party in Montreal, the period since the bylaw’s enactment in April 2021 has witnessed the initiation of 150 fresh projects by private developers, yielding a cumulative sum of 7,100 housing units. Notably, none of these units have undergone transformation into affordable housing units, as developers have instead chosen to offer financial compensation to the city. Among these units, only 550 meet the criteria for family housing. Additionally, a small fraction of developers opted to relinquish parcels of land to the city in lieu of constructing affordable housing units.
Financial Implications and Municipal Response
The financial penalties imposed on developers, as stipulated by the bylaw, are funneled into either the city’s affordable housing fund or its social housing fund. However, these financial contributions have cumulatively amounted to $24.5 million, a figure which, according to experts in the housing domain, remains inadequate for the execution of even a single social housing initiative.
Julien Hénault-Ratelle, a city councillor representing Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve under the Ensemble Montréal banner, voiced concern over the present situation, describing the numbers as “catastrophic.” He emphasized the burgeoning housing affordability crisis in Montreal’s Promise, highlighting the urgency for swift and tangible measures to address the issue.
Delayed Accountability and Future Plans
Despite an initial commitment by the city to unveil a two-year review of the bylaw’s outcomes by early 2023, no such disclosure has been made. Ensemble Montreal’s Promise has independently compiled and released the data, utilizing the city’s open data resources. They are now urging Plante’s administration to divulge their intentions for the five newly acquired plots of land along with the $24.5 million amassed.
Benoit Dorais, vice-chair of Montreal’s executive committee and the official responsible for housing initiatives, has acknowledged the delay in the two-year review’s release, pledging its completion during the upcoming autumn months, though it was initially slated for the spring.
Municipal Initiatives and Statement
The city underscores that the bylaw constitutes merely one facet of its multifaceted approach to enhance housing affordability. Additional strategies include the procurement of land and structures for housing endeavors, streamlining real estate project approvals, and collaboration with external partners, as outlined in an official statement.
Dorais stated, “The bylaw is a non-negotiable social contract we have with the population. It’s a commitment to build our city and our neighborhoods differently, where everyone has a place, regardless of their wallet.”
Defending the Bylaw and Governmental Role
Plante defended the bylaw, citing the potential for more effective social housing implementation if the Quebec government were to allocate fresh funds for new projects – a measure which has not yet been taken.
Premier François Legault, however, contends that the existing budgetary provisions are sufficient for ongoing projects, asserting that providing additional funding would be futile given the sluggish pace of completion.
Plante remarked, “The Quebec government has its foot on the brake. We’re not going to throw the bylaw in the garbage because it is a great planning tool. The issue is that the government is not financing social housing anymore.”
Challenges and Implications
Housing advocacy groups in Montreal express minimal surprise at developers’ lack of compliance, underlining the need for stringent policies to combat gentrification and ensure social housing provision.
Developer Nicola Padulo concurs, critiquing the city’s regulatory environment and emphasizing profit maximization. He contends that if affordability measures were implemented, the city or developers should compensate for the potential financial losses.
Véronique Laflamme from the Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU) emphasized the need for adequately funded social housing initiatives. She cites the limitations of the AccèsLogis program and the necessity for support from various governmental levels and private stakeholders.
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