Montreal faces a rental crisis in a pandemic
Back in the days when we didn't discuss covert nineteen every day. We often talked about the rental crisis by that. I mean the rental crisis in Toronto a rental crisis in Vancouver the rental crisis in the north and the rental crisis. Pi and Claire. Every time we did one of those shows. How often afterwards did we end up just talking wistfully about Montreal? Oh all the time and I mean I've told you this before. I've lived in so many terrible apartments in Toronto and sometimes terrible apartments with multiple rates. And I remember just out of curiosity sometimes looking online at -partment listings in Montreal and seeing how I could get something so much better for so much cheaper. It's it's really heartbreaking for US. Torontonians when I was in my mid twenties Which is not as long ago as you might think it was I had younger friends who were in school in Montreal and I would go visit them and I would walk into their beautiful apartments with high ceilings and spiral staircases and back. Patios in which they had a whole separate room just sitting empty for guests and ask them how much they paid and they'd be like. Oh we pay about four hundred bucks each a month and I think about my basement apartment in Toronto for nine hundred something dollars. I'D WANNA cry. Yeah I did seriously consider moving to Montreal a couple of times and I guess I never did because I always thought that cheap rent would always be there just kind of waiting right that I could make that move whenever I wanted but I feel like that's not so the case no and this is a story that kind of slipped past me but today's guest reached out to us and she painted a picture of another big Canadian city. That's fighting the short term rental monster and spiking rents from landlords and is now on the verge of a full-blown rental crisis now on the verge of a serious crisis in the middle of pandemic. That's not a good place to be. No it's not and Montreal has such a high percentage of renters that a rental crisis is even more dangerous there than in other Canadian cities especially in a pandemic so today. We're GONNA take you to a Montreal that if only ever dreamed of moving there or you haven't lived there in a while is probably radically different. From the image you have of the housing that's available. We'll do that right after Claire Catches you up on everything you need to know about. Covert nineteen in Canada and the World Claire Well Ontario and Manitoba have now extended school closures. Manitoba's schools will be closed indefinitely while Ontario says at schools will be closed until at least may fourth and they follow other provinces including Nova Scotia and Quebec which have already said schools will be closed until at least may in Toronto. All City lead events festivals conferences have been cancelled until June thirtieth and that includes the pride parade which was supposed to take place. June Twenty Eighth Mayor John. Torrey says pride month will still take place in some form. Quebec now has more than four thousand one hundred cases of cove in nineteen which is more than half of Canada's total the province. Aw Twenty one percent increase in cases in twenty four hours and thirty one deaths premier false when ago says the province could run out of protective equipment for medical workers in the next few days in the US. The death toll has reached more than three thousand five hundred which is more than China's official count. New York state is still deadliest hotspot with more than one thousand five hundred and fifty deaths most of them in New York as of Tuesday evening. More than eight thousand five hundred cases of Cova Nineteen in Canada with ninety six deaths. I'm Jordan Heath Rawlings and this is the big story Tracy. Lindemann is a freelance writer and reporter. She dug into the looming rental crisis in Montreal. For maisonneuve magazine. Hi tracey. Hi thanks for having me no problem. Why don't you start by just telling me about kind of the the stereotype or the image that most Canadians have of rental units Montreal in the renting culture? There in General Yeah Montreal. Has this kind of permanent reputation as the place to go? If you WANNA live cheap in Canada it is known for having affordable rents All departments. You know those famous spiral staircases. You could live and be an artist or permanent student which a lot of people opt for musician writer. You know you could actually do what you WanNa do in your life and live reasonably well. That's that's kind of the impression people have and that's the impression that they've had for a long time but I don't think that that's necessarily true anymore. We'll tell me what's been happening You describe in your story of a woman named tenured wok so Tanna is just one of the many people who I spoke with for this article. Antennas story is about how a one day. Actually it was Christmas Eve. She was getting ready to be to go to her parents in the suburbs of Montreal for Christmas celebration and she got a knock on the door and it was her new landlords and they said You pay rent to us now and then she said Oh okay. I didn't realize a landlord was selling the building. Are you gonNa make any repairs to have a few things that I need repaired? And they're like actually we're going to repair the whole building. Emigre convert everything to AIRBNB. Kick everybody out. So that was the start of her. Long protracted battle which is still ongoing today and this is something that's happening to a lot of people throughout Montreal and actually throughout Canada. I would say and probably anywhere where you'd be exists so around the world so. When did this start to Happen Montreal? And why in particular in? Montreal what changed. It started getting pretty bad in Montreal around. I would say probably Twenty Sixteen. Twenty fifteen twenty sixteen is when people really started to notice the squeeze and I think there wasn't really a really noticeable. Change like there was nothing. There is no one thing that happened. That made this squeeze start tightening. It was more an accumulation factors. So one is that people started noticing. That AIRBNB was a pretty lucrative venture. And if you had the capital to invest in property Why wouldn't you just go ahead and do that? And then instead of renting to long term tenants just convert your rental units into short term rentals. So more and more people started to do that with property so that was one thing that happened. And then I you know over the next few years Quebec and and the rest of Canada speaking specifically about Montreal Allot of migrants came into Montreal people from war torn countries but also people from France Students people coming from other parts of Canada and the US coming to study. There are four major universities in Montreal. That have forty thousand students per school. There are a lot of young people that are you know transitory instead. There's just a lot of people coming in and out of Montreal and so that was one of the other factors and people immaterial. Who lived there for a long time? They were just kinda used to the deal. You know you have a July first to June thirtieth lease and if he decided to leave it historically. It hasn't been hard to find another apartment you can just look on. Pj gee-gee or craigslist or facebook now and just find a new place to live. But that's really changing and a lot of the people who I spoke with say that it's super competitive. There even overbidding on apartments just trying to find a decent place to live. That's not infested with bugs. Rodents And it's really tough out there for a lot of people and we've heard similar stories about you know overbidding or huge amounts of competition for places Here in Toronto. But I can't imagine what kind of crisis that must create an city where like almost everybody rents right so tell me a little bit more. I guess first of all about the traditional moving day because that's very unique to Montreal Quebec Wide Policy. But because Montreal is the biggest city and because as I mentioned earlier there so many students in Montreal in particular because so many of Quebec's migrants are located in Montreal. Montreal really is the nexus of moving day And so what moving day is is it happens around July first so it used to just be July first But now it's kind of like two weeks before in two weeks after July first and now it's spread even further than that as people get more and more desperate to find housing and basically it's the time when everybody moves so In previous recent years I would say I did a story for city lab last year where I got figures that said seventy thousand. Households moved like in one summer While so you know in but people are used to this dance you know. It's it's just baked into how people live Montreal. The reason why back has this policy is really just because at some point Maybe forty years ago. The Quebec government decided to have moving day and it was supposed to be like a temporary measure. You know it was supposed to be like a a suggestion. But then everyone was like well. Let's just keep a July? I make things easy so it just kind of became the defacto rule. So there's kind of a system in place for a culture that relies on renters and tenants and landlords moving around at a certain date And it's competing with a run on airbnb properties And this is something. We've seen lots of cities. But but what's happening now or what's going to happen in the next few months as Montreal grapples with Colvin Nineteen. Yeah well WHO KNOWS? Really? It's changing every day. It seems that The situation is pretty dire. You know people in Montreal are used to living pretty much paycheck to paycheck. There's a lot of service industry people in Montreal Metro so famous for its bars and restaurants but what happens when all those businesses have to close all those people are out of work and the government has promised assistance to those people? But it won't come by the first. So what are those people do to pay the rent and so there is a growing movement for Rent Strike? But it's not a ten versus landlord tight situation. What they're calling for. What the with these people behind the rent strike movements white sheets for the rent strike are calling for is to have tenants and landlords get together because they're both kind of screwed yeah like the government and banks have said okay. We're going to allow people to have mortgage deferrals but good luck. Finding anyone who's been successful in actually getting through to their bank to get a deferral especially if you're a landlord who has rental properties you know it's very difficult to actually get that deferral on time and so it's just kind of getting everybody together and saying like we just can't pay for housing right now if you want us to stay inside put your money where your mouth is and make a stay inside. Sure don't make us live in the situation where we kind of feel pressure to work regardless of You know what's happening with the pandemic in terms of housing There's the rent strike the other jurisdictions in people for example. I saw British Columbia. There's been a moratorium convictions. the government has an add some kind of rent support. There are different measures being put in place. But it doesn't seem like it's really enough For the actual situation with regards to what's happening with Airbnb as what a lot of people are doing or what I've seen on facebook groups where people have apartment listings and stuff like that. You can see like tons of fully furnished apartments suddenly up for rent. That you know are obviously airbnb. That people can't rent tourists because they have like really nice pictures in. They have pictures of like folded towels on the bed and tables set with dishes like pictures you would see on airbnb except there on rental groups now and the owners of these babies are so desperate to get any income they can't. They flipped their short term. Rentals back onto the long term rental market even just marketing them as sublets or temporary rentals. So they're not even promising to put them back on the long term rental market. They're just trying to fill the gap while the pandemic continues to ravage their investments so traditionally what options do tenants in Montreal and Quebec. Have to protect themselves from this kind of stuff. And and what's the government doing now because again you mentioned Policies against fictions NBC There's also one and Ontario. What are they doing given the fact that they have a higher percentage of renters than almost anywhere right so the rental tribunal has stopped listening to eviction hearings so people can't be evicted right now for not paying their rent in Quebec and So that's that's a positive for tenants but of course like no one likes to be in disagreement with their landlord. The stress will carry over into future minds senior relationship overall with your landlord. So that's not good. There's also the factor that because any lease is a contract between two individuals. The Quebec government can't override bad agreement and dictate terms to anybody. So what it singing and with the city of Montreal saying is it sure would be nice if you would give your tenants a break but you know it it. It just seems as though some landlords are more generous than others and the province and the city are really relying on the generosity of landlords to get renters through this. I mean I'm a layperson but that doesn't sound like a recipe for everybody. Getting what they need. No it's not. What should we be looking for in Montreal In the next few days and weeks then. Will we get a sense Now that it's April first Of How many people are taking part in the rent? Strike how widespread it is How many landlords are giving people a break? We're going to start seeing that anecdotally or is it big enough. That people will notice the white sheets for the rent strike movement. So what they're asking is that they want people who either can't afford their rent now or people who are just supporting people who can't afford their rent to hang a white sheet out of their window off the balcony at the front door. Whatever just a show of solidarity so anecdotally like if you're walking around in Montreal might be able to see that this movement has already spread. I don't know how big it is but you know there have been pictures online of people doing it as far as Chicago Los Angeles Either our talks of rent strikes across Canada You know in big cities and small communities to so we'll see you know people may have had enough savings to pay for April first. But who knows what's going to happen for me. I if this condemn it keeps getting worse. You know like people might still be having to stay at home for the entire month of April in then at that point their savings for most service industry people at least for most people living paycheck to paycheck. They're savings will be decimated at that point so I think April I will be an interesting task but by may first the crisis will be far more advanced and then my last question I guess is. Has Anybody been thinking about what happens if this last longer than than we think? I mean. We're being told three months six months etc and some places and what happens on moving day if if Montreal still under lockdown I don't know what will happen on moving day. I think governments are going to have to seriously consider how they're going to deal with property owners especially people who own rental properties because a mortgage deferral may still come with interest in it may affect your credit and they're not necessarily that easy to get and so people are really desperately looking for solutions. In Canada and Quebec have been really good about announcing all kinds of bailout measures for all kinds of different organizations businesses. Trudeau has announced You know keeping afloat. Small medium and large businesses seventy five percent of businesses will be able to keep people on payroll just because they don't want like huge massive unemployment. But what are they gonNA do for for? Renters like people still need a place to live in. His generous people may be in his understanding. Is People may be like people still need to pay their bills at some point. So you know we'll see as April goes on how the situation develops right now. It's kind of the beginning Because it is the first of April but as may first comes around it will be totally different ballgame. Thanks for explaining the situation of Montreal to us. Tracy yeah thank you so much tracy. Lindemann is a freelance writer based in Montreal. And that was the big story if you need more worth the big story podcast dot ca but we need more from you as you know. We're collecting stories of what you're doing under lockdown use the voice recorder on your phone or take a video or do whatever you WanNa do but you can send them via email to the big story podcast at RCI DOT ROGERS DOT COM. And of course you can listen to US wherever you get your podcast. You can find us on Apple Google stitcher or on spotify and I will leave you now with somebody. Who's been way way more active than me during this lockdown. I'm Jordan Heath Rawlings. Thanks for listening. We'll talk tomorrow high So my name's Cassandra. I'm in Montreal right now. Quarantine and I'm currently leading live spin classes through instagram. From my Abe apartment. It's going really well. My neighbors have yet to complain about the noise. And I got a whole bunch of my Riders Bikes from the Gym Before. We close down a couple of weeks ago. And it's been a lot of fun So still trying to keep active trying to help keep people saying as well as myself and just trying to move forward and adjust.