The housing crisis is hitting Quebec hard, and people are paying the price. The private real estate industry is not meeting the needs of those with low or medium incomes. This is obviously not their primary mission. In addition, the conditions for housing development have become particularly difficult owing, in particular, to the rise in interest rates and construction costs. At the Alliance of Affordable Housing Corporations in the Quebec Area (ACHAT), a non-profit residential property owners’ group, we believe it is time to increase national and regional capacities for producing and managing social housing.
The housing crisis is not inevitable; tackling it vigorously would be a decisive boost to economic and social development. It is possible to meet the challenge of residential affordability by ensuring that the industry produces, regardless of the economic context, a sufficient supply of affordable housing that is protected from speculation. At ACHAT, we propose that this supply increase from 5% to 20% of the rental housing market within a few years. To achieve this ambitious but realistic goal, two actions will be required: new construction and the conversion of existing housing into affordable homes. Non-profit housing organizations, some of which are members of ACHAT, have the means and capacity to contribute to reaching this goal.
For a national social and affordable housing industrial policy
To do this, we suggest developing a true industrial policy inspired by the approaches used by the Super Clusters, as they are called in Ottawa, or the National Strategies, as they are called in Quebec. All stakeholders must work together, including the three levels of government, associations of builders, private developers, and their financiers, as well as architects and housing sector employee representatives. Public policies - regulatory tools, fiscal measures - must be aligned to promote the emergence and consolidation of non-profit real estate companies capable of sustainably meeting the population’s social and affordable housing needs. This industrial policy would include the creation of adequate and complementary financing tools that would mobilize social housing operators empowered to develop and manage a large volume of non-speculative housing in all regions of Quebec. In addition, it would create quality jobs throughout the province.
For several decades, social economy real estate companies, including members of ACHAT, have proven their worth. Today, they continue to grow despite difficult economic conditions thanks to a diversity of financial strategies and partnerships. Their business model, focused on holding long-term real estate assets, allows for the gradual construction of quality, affordable residential units which benefit local communities. These social mission companies are resilient in times of economic crisis, cannot be sold to foreign or speculative interests, and their presence contributes greatly to maintaining a healthy and balanced real estate market (no abusive rent increases, renovictions, or temporary Airbnb-type accommodations). Housing non-profits have reached a size and level of maturity that makes them genuine tools for economic, social, urban, sustainable, and human-scale development. The housing crisis is not inevitable; it is high time to take action!
For ACHAT: by Catherine Boucher, Executive Director of Habitations Communautaires Loggia, François Claveau, Executive Director of the Corporation Mainbourg, François Giguère, Executive Director of SOLIDES, Nathalie Meilleur, Executive Director of Hapopex, Louis-Philippe Myre, Executive Director of Interloge, Sébastien Parent-Durand, Executive Director of ACHAT, Jean-Pierre Racette, Executive Director of SHAPEM, Élise Tanguay, public affairs director of UTILE, François Tremblay, Executive Director of Espace La Traversée.