Housing Crisis: Affordable Rent Falls

The level of vacant space for rent has never been so low in the last 20 years. The housing crisis is further exacerbating the lack of affordable rent for people with limited incomes. What (rare) solutions exist for them?

For low-income households, finding affordable housing is harder than ever, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)’s latest rental market report released last January.

According to the CMHC, a home is affordable if the household that rents it does not spend more than 30% of its gross income on rent. For example, for a person with a salary of $45,000 per year, the available rent is a maximum of $1,125 per month. If she earns $35,000, her housing must not exceed $875 per month.

For example, in Quebec, only a quarter (25%) of rental housing is available to the 20% of households with the lowest incomes. In Montreal, 23% of housing remains affordable for them, and only 8% in Gatineau.

See also: Eviction, rent increase or foreclosure… who can help you?

“The Quebec metropolitan areas have the rarest housing units with the lowest rents,” writes Front d’action populaire en reménagement urbain (FRAPRU) after the CMHC report. Writing in the Journal de Montréal, the organization points out that in just five years, almost 116,000 affordable housing units under $750 have disappeared in Quebec, including 90,000 in Montreal alone, according to a detailed analysis of Statistics Canada data from 2016 and 2021. census.

Despite the limited availability of this type of housing, the situation in Quebec remains less tense than in other regions of the country. In Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa, affordable housing for the lowest income households is almost impossible to find.

Several programs have been launched in Quebec to help low-income households who pay rent that is too high for their means. Here are some of them.

Quebec Housing Offices

In the province, 149 housing authorities manage low-cost housing (HLM) and affordable non-subsidized housing. For example, the Municipal Housing Authority of Quebec (OMHQ) manages approximately 1,500 housing units at below-market prices. To be eligible, one person must have a maximum income of $34,400 and two or more people must have an income equal to or less than $70,000.

For its part, the Montreal Municipal Housing Authority (OMHM) offers housing with services for people aged 60 and over. The rent includes, inter alia, heating, electricity, food, cable and telephone service. One of the eligibility criteria is an income of $33,500 or less for an individual or couple.

In addition, 149 branches also help find housing. “Any citizen who finds it difficult to find housing that meets their needs in the rental market can turn to their housing office,” says Sebastien Oliver, deputy general director of the Regroupement des office d’habitation du Québec. He adds that these offices serve as a gateway for citizens looking for affordable housing.

Read also: Proposed 2.3% rent increase for 2023

HLM program

The non-profit housing program, commonly known as the “HLM Program”, allows tenants to pay rent equal to 25% of their income. These people live in HLMs subsidized by Quebec.

To be eligible for this program, a couple or individual must earn a maximum salary of $33,500 in Montreal. This maximum wage varies by region and the number of family members. For example, a family of five is entitled to more income than a family of three.

To take advantage of this program, you must apply to the housing office, housing cooperative (COOP), or non-profit organization (NPO) in your area.

People will be registered on the waiting list of the existing HLM. No new HLM project is currently under construction.

Rental Supplement Program (PSL)

Like the HLM program, this program allows low-income households to pay rent equal to 25% of their income. However, housing in most cases is not funded by the state. They are part of the private rental market or are owned by cooperatives or NGOs.

The rent supplement program “covers the difference between the share paid by the tenant (25%) and the rent agreed with the landlord,” the Société d’habitation du Québec (SHQ) states on its website.

Housing Assistance Program (PAL)

This program allows low-income people to receive financial assistance ranging from $100 to $170 per month. To be eligible, you must be 50 years of age or older if you live alone, live in a couple where one of the two spouses is at least 50 years old, or are part of a low-income family with at least one child in care .

Set annual income limits. For example, a couple with a child cannot earn more than $36,000. Please note that only one person per couple can apply for housing allowance by completing the form on the Revenu Québec website.

At the federal level, one-time support until March 31, 2023.

The federal government, for its part, is offering the Canadian Housing Benefit Uniform Supplement to help low-income tenants. This is a tax-free one-time payment of $500 paid by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

You do not need to receive other housing benefits. People whose income in 2021 did not exceed $20,000 per person and $35,000 per family are eligible. Other conditions apply, including the fact that rent must be more than 30% of the household budget in 2021.

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