Promoting social housing on Blue Bonnets
“Blue Bonnets represents an incredible opportunity for our community to take care of its most vulnerable residents.
Furthermore, social housing puts pressure on local landlords to maintain their buildings…because when tenants have other options, they don’t need to put up with unsafe and dangerous housing conditions.”
Luie, Côte-des-Neiges resident and Housing Rights volunteer
In Côte-des-Neiges, 41% of the population lives under the poverty line , and access to property is rarely an option for them. Furthermore, almost a quarter of households are dedicating over 50% of their income to rent , when the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation considers 25% of one’s income to be a healthy amount to pay for housing. Even worse, over 4,000 households pay more than 80% of their income for housing .
Meanwhile, only 3.1% of the housing stock in Côte-des-Neiges is social housing compared to 9% on average in Montréal . The 2483  households on the waiting list for low-cost housing in CDN-NDG wait an average of 5 years before getting access to housing they can afford.
The planning underway for this site is generating great interest and constitutes a critical juncture for our neighbourhood. While the idea of an innovative project is laudable, one question proves critical: who will be able to live at Blue Bonnets?
To be inclusive, Blue Bonnets must be developed in continuity with the existing neighbourhood and constitute a response to the critical housing needs of low-income households in Côte-des-Neiges. Given the lack of available vacant land and the high levels of real estate speculation in the neighbourhood, local organizations are working to ensure that this project address the needs of current neighbourhood tenants.
 Statistiques Canada, census 2006
 CDC de CDN portrait statistique (Recensement 2006), p.21
 Office Municipal d’Habitation de Montréal, chiffres en date du 30 septembre 2013
Reducing delays for tenant cases at the Rental Board
There are a number of housing groups fighting against these long waiting times. Even the Quebec Ombudsperson (an employee of the government) has denounced the Rental Board delays.
As more and more people take a stand and speak out, the stronger we become. Our experience has led us to to recommend that:
- All cases be heard on a first-come first-serve basis within 3 months.
- All urgent cases that gravely impact health and safety be heard within 72 hours.
- The Quebec government provide the Rental Board with the necessary resources to hire enough commissioners (Rental Board judges) to make this happen.
Project Genesis members work together with those of the P.O.P.I.R.-Comité logement to reduce waiting times for hearings at the Rental Board.
Improving application of the Housing code
Every day, Project Genesis sees people who are facing dire housing problems. The most common problems found in the Côte-des-Neiges-NDG borough’s rental housing units are vermin infestations (cockroaches, mice, rats or bedbugs), inadequate heating, and mould, to name only a few.
Although the housing code is a powerful and potentially effective mechanism to ensure that tenants’ housing rights are respected, many of the powers given to the borough and the city are either underused or inconsistently applied. At the same time, in our borough we have between 4 and 6 inspectors for 52 430 housing units. Thus, even though the CDN-NDG borough responds to hundreds of complaints every year, tenants still struggle for decent housing. Through lobbying and advocacy work we fight for a better application of the housing code on a local level.
 Statistics Canada, Census 2006
Maintaining subsidies for social housing
These cuts have not yet been implemented in many units. However, in those which no longer receive subsidies, some tenants have seen rents rise by $200 to $300 per month.
In the case of HLMs, as the federal government retracts its financial support, the task of making up the difference has fallen on the provincial government. However, this support may decrease or end, and the government of Quebec could eventually decide to raise the rents of tenants.
“Project Genesis never backs down. We go to Ottawa, to Quebec City – we go everywhere for social housing, and we stand together and make sure that people’s rights are not trampled upon. We all want the same thing: we want social housing for everyone.
I don’t give Genesis a hundred percent – I give Genesis a hundred and ten! Anyone can come here and we won’t turn you away. I am proud to be a member of Project Genesis.”
Nola, Housing Rights volunteer
Over the coming years, the number of social housing units which will be deprived of federal subsidies could increase sharply. Households who had escaped from precariousness by having access to affordable housing could join the ranks of those already in need of affordable housing.
Eliminating subsidies has a direct impact on those living in, or waiting for, a unit of social housing. Rather than making cuts, by investing in maintaining existing social housing and the development of new units, governments would be concretely supporting low-income households and those living in sub-standard housing.
“Through our targeted goal to share information about rent increases, we helped countless residents understand their rights and encouraged them to stand up to their landlords.
Each time a tenant can stop themselves from being victimized, it is a victory; these individual victories contribute to the ideal of a society that is accessible for everyone.”
Mark, Outreach volunteer