Housing rights activists, nonprofits and community organizations, tenants, and concerned citizens of the West Island are calling for demerged cities to take action now in order to address significant gaps in the emergency housing resources for tenants. In an open letter addressed to the cities of Dorval, Pointe-Claire, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Kirkland, Beaconsfield, Baie-d’Urfé, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, and Senneville, advocates put forward two steps that these municipalities can take to provide emergency housing and housing search assistance for their residents in need:
- Apply for a subsidy under Stream 1 of the Programme d’hébergement temporaire et d’aide à la recherche de logement (PHTARL) of the Société d’habitation du Québec (SHQ), which allows municipalities to support households facing homelessness and victims of fires and other disasters. In accordance with a budgetary framework and agreement with the SHQ, municipalities can pay for moving and storage costs of admissible households, provide no-cost temporary housing for up to two months, and be reimbursed by the SHQ. The SHQ will reimburse 50% of a municipality’s eligible expenses, up to $0.80 per resident of the municipality; for reference, the maximum contribution from the SHQ according to this framework would represent approximately $15,000 in Dorval, $25,000 in Pointe-Claire, and $39,000 in DDO. This is a significant amount of funds that the cities of the West Island should be making available in order to be able to support their most vulnerable citizens through difficult times.
- Under Stream 2 of this program, it is also possible for cities to contact the Office municipal d’habitation de Montréal (OMHM) to begin discussions on possible service linkages with the referral service, in order to allow low-income residents of demerged cities to have full access to the housing search assistance service all year round. Although demerged West Island cities are within the territory of the OMHM, residents of these cities are not included within the mandate of the referral service if they are made homeless by a repossession, “reno-viction,” or sanitation evacuation. The referral service is a robust service, providing assistance to over 5,000 households per year. The reality is that demerged cities in the West Island have already relied on and benefitted from this service many times. In 2023, 12 households from demerged cities in the West Island were accompanied by the OMHM’s referral service. If demerged cities are not able to come up with an equivalent service for their own citizens, it is important that yearly service and funding agreements with the OMHM be made so that when citizens are in need, they will be able to receive support without long delays and uncertainty. The case-by-case approach that has been used thus far creates confusion and adds to the already tremendous stress faced by tenants at risk of imminent homelessness.
Considering that only 20% of housing units in the West Island are rentals and that the West Island is home to a mere 4% of the island’s social housing, it is not easy for tenants to find adequate and affordable housing once they are displaced. It is clear that West Island tenants need more support from their local governments. Now is the time to take action so that when tenants are displaced, we will be prepared to meet their needs.
To sign the open letter, click here.