Almost two-thirds of Montreal’s low-rent housing (HLM) is in poor condition and in need of major renovations, a proportion that continues to grow despite the money invested.
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“We’ve been talking about replacing doors and windows for six years. The cold air penetrates in winter, we feel the wind in the middle of the living room,” says Robert Blais, who lives in a building managed by the Montreal Municipal Housing Office (OMHM).
Photo Camille Pay
Robert Blais, Chairman of the Tenants Committee of Habitations Marie-Rollet in the Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie neighborhood of Montreal, in front of his HLM.
Habitations Marie-Rollet, where Mr. Blais lives, has been rated “E” by the Société d’habitation du Québec, meaning it is in need of major renovations.
Overall, 63% of low-rent housing in the metropolis is considered to be in poor or very poor condition. For all of Quebec, the proportion is estimated at around 35%.
“In Montreal the HLMs are much older, we built a lot of poor quality towers in the 1970s. The infiltrations were causing mold and it was exponential,” explains Robert Pilon, Coordinator of the Federation of Tenants of Low-Rental Housing in Quebec ( FLHLMQ).
Currently, according to the OMHM, about 400 housing units are in such poor condition that no one can live there, most of them in towers that are now barricaded because they are too dilapidated.
To restore these homes, Quebec and Ottawa announced a one-time $100 million grant in May 2021.
However, according to FLHLMQ, not a penny of these funds have yet been spent.
“I find it scandalous in the midst of a real estate crisis,” says Mr. Pilon, who specifies that the first tenders have just been launched.
Last year, OMHM estimated work to restore its housing stock at $792 million.
However, it is impossible to know what that amount is now, which could increase due to inflation.
“The completion of major works and the development of new housing are made particularly difficult by the overheating of construction costs,” said the OMHM in its Strategic Plan 2020-2025 published last year.
“Similar to the roads in Quebec, there are multiple buildings that need work to be done, but we can’t do them all at the same time,” said Mathieu Vachon, spokesman for the agency.