Friday, September 29, 2023

The invisible Minister of Housing

The rapid rise in the number of homeless people is finally making headlines. Thanks to the well-founded anger of Quebec mayors, the Legault and Trudeau governments will find it harder to escape.

In Quebec alone, more than 10,000 people are homeless. Including 3000 women. Never seen. An increase of 44% in five years.

The first cause, but not the only one, is a real estate crisis ignored for years by the three levels of government.

On Friday, at the Municipal Summit on Homelessness held in Quebec, Housing Minister France-Élaine Duranceau was even absent. Unheard of, right? Only her colleague Lionel Carmant was present.

Stranger still, the ministers’ daily agenda provided by the Prime Minister’s office indicated that Mme Duranceau, that day, only had one activity: a “talk” before a CPE in his county.

His spectacular absence at the summit suggests above all that in the prime minister’s office itself, people would have been afraid to let the minister into such a politically weakened forum.

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Above all because he tends to make mistakes in a real estate crisis of which he does not seem to grasp either the scale, the complexity, or the real causes, much less the possible solutions.

How can we forget the surreal invitation to “invest in real estate” he issued to tenants who would no longer be able to transfer their lease if his Bill 31 were passed as is? A little more and she criticized them for not being as rich as her.

Law or merchandise?

But was it really a huge mistake? Or was it not rather the spontaneous reaction of a minister to whom her own real estate investments bore fruit? In short, for whom housing is not a right, but a commodity.

This is where the problem lies. Yes, in the council of ministers, Mme Duranceau is incapable of defending the violated interests of the victims of the real estate crisis, who will?

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That said, even beyond the minister, the important thing will be in the “command” that François Legault will or will not pass to his troops. Will he demand concerted work from his ministers to tackle the housing and homelessness crises? Or will it favor as free a market as possible and send “targeted” but insufficient controls to certain groups of people?

Will he be willing to work together with cities and the Trudeau government? And vice versa. How can we explain that a $900 million federal housing fund remains idle in Ottawa awaiting an agreement between the two governments?

The answers to these crucial questions will result in an improvement or deterioration of the situation.

Multiple faces

Because the three levels ignored it for a long time, the real estate crisis has not only spread, but has become more complex. Result: their faces are now multiple. Homelessness is the most visible, but it is far from the only one. Most are invisible. He is forced to choose between feeding himself and paying rent. Forced to stay in an unhealthy apartment or in poor conditions.

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Forced to languish on endless waiting lists for social or affordable housing that has not yet been delivered. Or expelled for false reasons. Or taken by the throat because we are on welfare or low wages. Etc.

The three levels of government can act on all these fronts. The same goes for the homeless crisis. Also due to the inaction of those responsible for making decisions, their faces today are multiple. I’ll get back to it tomorrow.

However, other countries, including Finland, have managed to greatly reduce the number of homeless people. This shows that in the face of a humanitarian crisis everything is a matter of political will, heart and intelligence. Spot.

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