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(en) Canada, Montreal, Hard Times For Tenants by Comit des sans-emploi & CLAC-Logement

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 28 Jan 2004 10:53:47 +0100 (CET)

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An article taken from "C'est arriv prs de chez-vous",
a newspaper published by the Comit des sans-emploi & CLAC-Logement.
In this great enterprise of social demolition that is now
commonly referred to as "state re-engineering", housing and
tenants' rights are part of the sectors that are being severely
affected. We already knew that times had gotten tough for
tenants in the recent years with the rapidly aggravated state
of the housing crisis, but we can expect things to get worse
in the future if nothing is done to reverse this trend.

We can recall how the liberals had made the electoral
promises to freeze the government's budget in all sectors
with the expectation of the health and education sectors.
Obviously, housing is not accounted for in the spared areas.
The mere fact that no new money will be injected in this
sector at a time when tenants are being pushed against the
wall in the context of a totally inflationist housing market
means they will be more exploited than ever by profit hungry

Let's recall a few facts: it's been estimated that 23 000 new
housing units would be needed to reach a so-called
"balanced" occupation level of 3%; more than 218 000
households spend over 50% of their incomes in rent, and at
least 17 500 people are on the waiting list for a social
housing unit in the montreal area alone.

Despite this situation, the liberal government has done
nothing but adopt more harmful policies since its ascension
to power. The budget allotted to social housing has been
slashed by more than 25%, which will mean more physical
deterioration of social housing units that are mostly already
old. What's more, the PQ's promises of investing 128 million
on social housing has just simply been cancelled. Instead of
going to the root of the housing problem and building more
social housing, the Charest team will try to put a ridiculous
bandage by investing a meager 10.7 million. We can count on
this money to be used almost exclusively as emergency
measure for the hundreds of households that will find
themselves on the street once again come July 1st.

To top it all off, the liberal government hasn't even
announced any kind of plan to build more social housing, one
of the most fundamental ways with which the housing crisis
can be resolved. At the very most, it's promised to maintain
the PQ's ridiculous promises (13 500 units over five years, a
promise that's finally been brought down to 11 000) - but
nothing has been said of the future. As if that's not enough,
we've just learned that the 3000 tenants who had received a
rent supplement as an emergency measure to help them find
an apartment during the 2002 and 2003 July 1st crises, are
now going to lose this precious help come July 1st 2004.
Hence, we can expect all the people who had barely escaped
ending up on the streets the last three years right back
where they had started. Let's hope that, just like the Liberal
party "They're ready!"

The Role of the State in Quebec: The Example of the Rental

When we talk about the reengineering of the State and of it's
role in Quebec, we're not only referring to empty concepts
that don't mean anything; we're talking about people and real
life situations. We can learn a few such lessons by using the
example of the Rental Board, that is supposed to be a neutral
and objective administrative tribunal of the State. If you've
been keeping up with daily news, you've probably heard of
landlord associations openly criticising the Rental Board. If
we were to believe them, we'd be convinced that this is a
circus tribunal that only serves to defend the rights of
tenants, where the arbitrators and workers are nothing more
than the clones of Franois Saillant. When we look closer,
however, and into the annual report that the Board publishes
every year, you'd quickly realize that it's anything but that.

While landlords claim that rents should only be submitted to
the market rules of supply and demand, they are the ones
who, in 95% of the cases, go to the Board to set the rent;
they are at the origin of 13 284 demands out of 13 982 of this
type. In a period of four years, we can see that landlords'
demands at the Board to set rents has climbed by a
spectacular 416%. "We don't want it anymore, but we're
using it 4 times more", is basically what the landlords are
saying. More than even, it's becoming clear that instead of
trying to reach friendly agreements with their tenants
regarding rent prices, landlords are all the more intent on
increasing the rents.

What are the tenants supposed to do?

The numbers published in this report make it pretty clear that
tenants are losing more and more power in the face of
housing laws. It was very common in the past, for example,
for tenants to use the law which allows for the cancellation
of a lease. But what's the use of canceling a lease these
days, now that it's practically impossible to find another
apartment. It's not a big surprise then to learn that tenants'
have reduced their demands for lease cancellations by 51%
in the past two years (for a total of 602 in 2003) and that the
same recourse used by landlords has increased by 74% in
two years (5620 in 2003). We can tell from these stats that
even in extreme situations, increasing number of tenants
choose to keep their apartment, mostly because of the fear
of not being able to find another one.

As we've said earlier, even though we're told the same old
refrain that the Rental Board is working in the favor of
tenants, it's obvious that it's helping landlords kick people
out on the street. In fact, for the province of Quebec, as
many as 34 400 demands for lease cancellations have been
made and just as many tenants have lost their apartments.
Another worrisome phenomenon that's appeared in the past
few years has been the drastic increase in repossessions
that reached a peak of 2 055, the number of demands
climbing by 152% in the past two years and increasing 266%
over four years. Moreover, the Rental Board doesn't seem to
mind the fact that lease cancellations can be heard within 40
days and that in contrast, other demands from tenants can
be expected to be dealt with in an average of 100 days. In
essence, it's deemed normal that tenants have to wait 2
months longer than their landlords when they are the ones
who bring a case at the Board.

After all this, can we still pretend, like the landlords do, that
the Board is on the side of tenants? Can anyone still buy the
idea that the reengineering of the State is being done to
benefit all Quebec's population, when more than 60% of us
live as tenants in urban centers? The dramatic situation in
the housing sector just demonstrates once again that
Charest rules for the profit of his buddies, the rich and the
landlords. We say it and we'll say it again: the right to
private property always comes into conflict with the right for
us to house ourselves.
Copied from North East Federation of Anarcho-Communists - NEFAC

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