'Throwing us out': Montreal seniors evicted from social housing fear they'll leave Park Ex

·3 min read
Alberto Figueroa-Leturia says he worries about where he and his neighbours will be relocated.  (Kwabena Oduro/CBC - image credit)
Alberto Figueroa-Leturia says he worries about where he and his neighbours will be relocated. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC - image credit)

Golam Mostafa and Arifa Begum have lived in Parc-Extension social housing for seniors for the past eight years. With their health declining, they had no plans to move.

But on June 14, they were shocked to learn the Office municipal d'habitation de Montréal (OMHM) was evicting them from their home, the Habitations Jean-Valets, due to the building needing extensive repairs to its exterior walls, common areas, electricity and plumbing.

"Our feeling is just that they're throwing us out," said Mostafa, who had a liver transplant and struggles with mobility issues.

All 57 tenants, who are 65 and older, have until Oct. 31 to leave the social housing building near the corner of Bloomfield Avenue and de Liège Street, with no word on when they might return.

Mathieu Vachon, director of communications of the OMHM, says the office will hire professional movers and relocate the tenants, but it can't guarantee units in Parc-Extension for those evicted.

He says priority will be given to tenants based on the number of years they have lived in the unit, but if they have health problems linked to the move, the OMHM will "absolutely take it into consideration" when assigning housing.

Despite some residents possibly moving out of the neighbourhood, they will be able to keep their family doctors affiliated with the local CLSC, said Sandi Ponente, an outreach worker of Patro Villeray who has worked with the residents for nearly three years.

They will have the option to return to their unit once the repairs are completed, but Vachon says the work could take years.

Alberto Figueroa-Leturia, 68, who suffers from health issues, said he was "very sad" to hear he would have to uproot.

"They say we can come back in 2028, but I don't know if I'll be alive," he said. "I'm very worried because I don't know where I'll go."

Tenants will receive $500 when they move out and another $500 if they choose to return. The sums, Vachon says, serve to cover the costs of internet, phone and cable subscriptions and the inconvenience of changing addresses.

Kwabena Oduro/CBC
Kwabena Oduro/CBC

Amy Darwish, a spokesperson for the Comité d'action de Parc-Extension (CAPE), says this eviction speaks to the need to fund renovations for existing social housing so buildings don't deteriorate to the point where tenants are forced out.

"It's already difficult to have to move to another neighbourhood but even more so as you're getting old," Darwish said.

The OMHM keeps a registry of its 20,810 units and the condition they are in, which is updated every five years, Vachon said, but if a building requires attention within that time frame, the office would "take the necessary measures."

Uncertain of whether they'll be separated from their relatives and friends, Mostafa and Begum worry they will be relocated to social housing that isn't as close to public transit as their current home.

"It's crazy," he said. "I cannot even think about the move because we're not perfectly healthy to move all my stuff again."

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