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Downtown lacks affordable housing: group

Jan RavensbergenThe Gazette

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

 

MONTREAL - Lower-income Montrealers - anybody with annual family revenue of $55,000 or less - are getting the squeeze during the city's downtown condo-construction boom, a study released Wednesday concludes.

 

No social or community housing was built in the downtown Ville Marie borough during 2006, a round-table group on downtown housing said.

Construction of that type of affordable housing completely dried up, plunging to zero from 11 per cent of residential construction across the borough during 2005.

 

For the two years, an overall total of 184 such housing units were built in Ville Marie. Among the overall total of 3,186 units, that boils down to roughly one affordable unit for every 17 built.

 

The report was produced by the Department of urban and tourism studies at l'Université de Montréal, with the participation of the Comité logement Centre-Sud, which represents tenants.

 

"We need a counterweight to the speculative effect brought to the downtown by such projects as the Quartier des spectacles, the new (French-language) super-hospital and the expansion of the universities," said Éric Michaud, coordinator of the tenants' group.

 

The Quebec, municipal and federal governments have to put in major financing to ensure that construction of affordable housing can resume in Ville Marie, Michaud said.

 

However, he added, the 121-page study wasn't designed to produce a cost estimate, and didn't.

 

Across Montreal as a whole in 2006, there was a slight decline in the production of what is considered affordable housing as a proportion of overall residential construction - to 12.3 per cent in 2006 from 13.8 per cent in 2005.

 

As a 10-year objective from 2004, the city's urban plan foresees construction of between 60,000 and 75,000 new housing units.

 

Of those, 30 per cent, or 18,000 to 22,500 units, would be considered affordable, units occupied by households with annual income of $55,000 or less.

 

Half of these would be government-financed housing for low- or very-low-income tenants, with annual revenue of $35,000 or less.

 

"Downtown, there is a long way to go," Michaud said.

 

About 58 per cent of households in Ville Marie report annual income of $35,000 or less, according to the study. Across all of Montreal's 19 boroughs, the proportion is a significantly less 47 per cent.

 

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