Montreal AI accused of worsening Parc-Extension housing crisis

Montreal was the place where the Declaration for the Responsible Development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) was created. But like a badly shod shoemaker, Montreal’s artificial intelligence has not considered its negative impact on the adopted neighborhood, causing residents on Thursday to protest what they see as a significant lack of respect for the most vulnerable.

Parc-Extension Tenants, Parc-Extension Anti-Eviction Mapping Collective and Parc-Extension Action Committee will hold a ‘tintamarre’ with rattles and other sound accessories in the morning before the opening of the panel TimeWorld International Conference on Artificial Intelligence, held on the MIL campus University of Montreal located in the county.

The protesters accuse corporations, universities and governments of creating conditions that make the area increasingly inaccessible. They rely in part on a report published last month by university researchers detailing the detrimental impact of the advent of the AI ​​industry, largely concentrated in this quadrangle, located between Mont-Royal to the west and the metropolitan highway to the north, Villeret. to the east and Outremont to the south.

The housing crisis hitting Parc-Extension is the same as in other areas of Montreal and other cities in North America: developers are evicting, renovating, renting or reselling homes at a price far higher than they were before they arrived. This creates a shortage not only of affordable housing but also of social housing; a shortcoming that particularly affects an immigrant neighborhood such as Parc-Extension, explains Concordia University communications professor Alessandra Renzi, co-author of a report entitled “Digital Divides – The Impact of Montreal’s AI Ecosystems on Park Expansion: Housing, Environment, and Access to Services.”

“Many residents of the area are waiting for their visa to be able to work. These are women and men who cannot afford high-speed Internet, if only to take advantage of the innovations taking place in the neighborhood,” lamented Alessandra Renzi. The professor believes that the strategy of the government of Quebec and the city of Montreal to massively invest in the development of AI in the metropolis is failing because it does not help the poorest, who are punished for it. Companies headquartered in California or anywhere else on the planet are not going to solve the problem, the scientist adds.

“Direct Link”

In their report, the authors are adamant: “There is a direct link between AI innovation in Montreal and the housing crisis, exacerbated by AI companies, publicly funded institutions such as Scale AI, and the University of Montreal, whose presence in the area drives up rental prices and fuels luxury real estate development.” but fails to deliver on its promise to make student housing more affordable.

Recalling a request made in March last year by the Montreal Public Consultation Office, which calls for nothing less than a “Marshall Plan” against Parc-Extension gentrification, the researchers believe that authorities could do more to encourage the participation of various actors in the community. participates in AI in Montreal.

These are the women and men who cannot afford high-speed internet, if only to take advantage of the innovations taking place in their neighborhood.

We must acknowledge the limitations of the AI ​​ecosystem and ensure equal access to housing, businesses and employers, and benefits for social groups not belonging to the private sector, academia, business or government, they conclude: “Instead of subsidizing only private initiatives, governments should encourage the creation of new community-based and community-led projects. […] for the AI ​​ecosystem to benefit everyone and not perpetuate some harm. »

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