Quebec is in the grip of a growing housing crisis, and the latest data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) paints a bleak picture. Housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable and scarce, posing a serious challenge for both renters and landlords. In this article, we delve into the key findings from the CMHC data and the differing perspectives of stakeholders involved.
The CMHC data reveals a disturbing trend of worsening rental costs and availability. While there may be varying interpretations of the data, there is a unanimous agreement that the situation can no longer be ignored, and market forces alone cannot rectify it.
The Association des professionnels de la construction et de l'habitation du Québec (APCHQ) predicts a significant decline in the number of rental housing starts in 2023. A striking 32 percent decrease is anticipated, following a 14 percent drop in 2022 compared to the previous year.
The APCHQ estimates that there is a shortage of approximately 100,000 housing units in Quebec. The CMHC's vacancy rate data supports this claim. Typically, a vacancy rate of around 3 percent signifies a balance between supply and demand. However, in 2021, Quebec's rate stood at 2.5 percent, but it plummeted to just 1.7 percent the following year.
In some regions, the situation is even direr, with vacancy rates dropping below 1 percent. In certain cities like Gaspé and Roberval, the rate has reached an alarming 0 percent, meaning there is no housing available.
The issue extends across the province. In Montreal, the vacancy rate was at 2 percent, in Quebec City, it was 1.5 percent, and in metropolitan areas like Gatineau, Sherbrooke, Saguenay, and Trois-Rivières, it was below 1 percent.
Several factors contribute to the worsening situation. Skyrocketing interest rates are a significant concern, making property ownership unattainable for many young households, thus keeping them in the rental market. Simultaneously, high interest rates hamper developers, forcing them to charge exorbitant rents to recoup their financing costs.
Rising construction costs due to inflation add to the problem, further disconnecting rents from market prices. The influx of newcomers who initially rely on rentals exacerbates the demand-supply gap.
Calculating rental cost increases is a contentious issue. The Corporation des propriétaires immobiliers du Québec (CORPIQ) argues that rents have stayed below inflation, which was 6.7 percent in Quebec in 2022. However, CMHC's calculations focus on two-bedroom units and exclude new properties. Even using CMHC's methodology, rental increases have surpassed inflation in certain regions, such as Gatineau, reaching 9.1 percent.
The Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec (RCLALQ) calculates increases inclusive of all apartment types, including newer, higher-priced units. Their data reveals shocking average increases of more than 20 percent in areas like Rawdon, Cowansville, and Gatineau, and over 18 percent in places like Chambly, Brossard, Boucherville, Verdun, and Anjou-Saint-Léonard in Montreal.
Moderate-income households that do not receive government assistance are particularly affected by these steep increases. Numerous Montreal neighborhoods, suburban areas, and cities like Longueuil, Shawinigan, Sherbrooke, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Sainte-Agathe, Granby, and Baie-Comeau have also seen average increases ranging from 10 to 18 percent.
In essence, no corner of Quebec has been spared from these substantial rent hikes.
In this crisis, the solutions offered diverge based on whether one resides behind the apartment door or owns it.
The RCLALQ calls for immediate rent freezes, followed by rent caps and the establishment of a rent registry. It also advocates for accelerated construction of social and affordable housing.
In contrast, CORPIQ vehemently opposes rent control, favoring substantial and rapid government assistance for new housing construction. They also seek regulatory and fiscal framework reforms to promote the renovation of existing housing stock and the creation of new units.
Both groups, however, agree on the urgency of government intervention. Housing Minister France-Élaine Duranceau is being urged to take swift and decisive action to address a situation that has become untenable for all parties involved.
The housing crisis in Quebec demands immediate attention and innovative solutions to ensure that affordable and adequate housing remains accessible to all residents.