Lock the door and swallow the key

Lock the door and swallow the key

There is no single solution – or two or three – that will solve the housing and homelessness crises alone. But to know what to do, the method is very simple. Decision makers should lock themselves in a room, lock the door and swallow the key.


This Friday’s summit on homelessness in Quebec should be no exception. We need more meetings like this for the homeless and for housing. From the outside, the appearance of a disorder emerges.

This is not a column about who should do what and when. I would like to explain how better integration and better definition of roles could avoid many of the current failures identified by experts.

It’s easy to portray the new generation of mayors as progressive heroes fighting against Ottawa and Quebec.

Quebec’s mayor aims for “zero homelessness” It is commendable. But like the climate, the goals aren’t much. What matters is the plan to get there.

For now, we are looking at projects being advertised separately by municipalities, provinces and the central government.

In 2017, the Trudeau government announced its housing strategy, a $40 billion budget spread over 10 years. As usual, it took several years for the central government to reach an agreement with the provinces to distribute the envelopes. Later, these amounts should be transferred to the municipalities. For example, cities say they have earmarked land for future housing but are waiting for money to start work.

Another sign of this slowdown: On Thursday, Justin Trudeau announced the scrapping of the GST on construction of rental buildings. The problem: He promised it in 2015… and it took eight years to move. It would have been less so if the Liberals had chatted provinces and municipalities over the same coffee machine.

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Mr. Trudeau has criticized cities for discouraging housing because of bureaucracy, and he’s not wrong.

Pursuant to its 20-20-20 regulation, which requires an allocation of affordable, social and family housing in new construction, Montreal has increased construction costs, thus encouraging developers to look elsewhere or do nothing. Apart from the various charges levied on the developers, the waiting times for approvals are long. revealed by Montreal JournalMayor Valérie Plante has built three times less affordable housing than she claims.

But if municipalities impose these restrictions, it will offset their deficit. Their liabilities have been steadily increasing since the early 1990s.They depend on property taxes. They keep only this instrument and use it everywhere to beat.

So we cannot criticize this bureaucracy without linking it to provincial funding. Tax reform is complex. It won’t be resolved in a few weeks. But at the very least, Quebec could establish new density criteria. This will protect mayors the next time a few citizens try to block a real estate project integrated into public transportation.

All of this may seem far removed from homelessness. But in housing, mugs interact.

Housing demand is increasing due to immigration and rising condo prices – young people are staying renters longer.

The undersupply is due to delays and costs imposed on developers, interest rates, labor shortages and historically underinvestment in social housing, which the Legault government has failed to address. The most vulnerable are the apparently penniless. Evidence suggests that evictions have become a leading cause of homelessness, just ahead of drug and alcohol use disorders.

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For the homeless, the CAQ government could have organized more internal meetings before the summit with the cities. The lack of integration begins within the state.

In 2021, Recommendation 14.1 of the Homeless Action Plan proposed to “specify the roles and responsibilities” of each actor. Two years later, we’re still waiting. We are talking about a simple definition of tasks!

Experts urge the 10 ministries concerned to act as a team, with one responsible minister. and by focusing on prevention and rehousing. Sexual minorities, First Nations, drug addicts, children of DPJ and ex-prisoners are over-represented on the streets. Those who deal with them on a daily basis give the best advice to the government, but they wonder who to talk to. Another example is often asked: support should be provided to a person who finds themselves without a home after an eviction notice.

Beware of misers, repression and last-resort aid are costly, and society is depleted.

This is what we call a crisis — crises, really — with multiple factors. Very difficult to deal with. There is no need to do it in their own corner, playing the hero or the victim.

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