Tenants' rights advocates say they're fed up with rent hikes and abusive evictions, and they're hoping a trio of protests held in several cities will get the Quebec government's attention.
Groups are urging the province to implement tighter rent controls and establish a rental registry in order to slow down the increase in prices for apartment units.
Addressing a large crowd of protesters who gathered in Montreal's Park Extension neighbourhood on Saturday, the head of the province's coalition of housing committees accused the government of ignoring the housing crisis.
"The future of housing rights is at stake," said Maxime Roy-Allard. "A two-bedroom apartment [in the city] costs $1,300, $1,400, sometimes more than $1,500. Who can afford that nowadays?"
Protesters also gathered in Quebec City in front of the National Assembly and in Sainte-Hyacinthe in the Montérégie region.
According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the average rental in the Montreal area in 2020 cost $891 per month — an increase of 4.2 per cent compared to the previous year.
The increase in rents is not the only reason advocates are concerned. More and more, they say landlords are using dishonest tactics to force tenants out of their units. On Saturday, advocates repeated their call for a moratorium on evictions during the pandemic.
Martin Blanchard, a community worker with the housing committee in Montreal's Petite-Patrie neighbourhood, says there's been a surge in requests for help from tenants who claim they're dealing with unfair landlords.
"We've been forced to bring in more staff to be able to meet the growing demand," Blanchard said. "These are people who are being evicted and aren't able to find another place to live.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, co-spokesperson of Québec Solidaire, took part in Saturday's protest in Montreal.
"This was supposed to be a government for families," Nadeau-Dubois said. "Right now, we have a government that is completely deaf to the realities of thousands of families in Montreal, and everywhere in Quebec, that are victims of the housing crisis."
'My neighbours are being pushed out'
When Sasha Dyck first moved to Park Extension more than a decade ago, he says his three-bedroom apartment cost $850 per month. Now, he says he's coughing up more than $1,300 a month for a two-bedroom unit.
"And [my landlord] is trying to increase our rent another $50 this year," Dyck said.
"This is my neighbourhood, where I am raising a family, but it's getting harder and harder to stay here. The rents are skyrocketing and more and more of my neighbours are being pushed out."
The Municipal Affairs and Housing Ministry told Radio-Canada that a rent registry is too costly, and unlikely to be implemented.
The ministry is also encouraging tenants to know their rights and to hold landlords accountable by filing complaints with the rental board (Régie du logement) when needed.