Boyer, Fournier pledge housing summit

Laval and Longueuil mayoralty candidates say housing challenges need out-of-the-box thinking.

Stéphane Boyer and Catherine Fournier are partnering and pledging to tackle housing issues if they are elected in their respective cities on November 7.

Boyer and Fournier, mayoral candidates of Laval and Longueuil respectively, are planning to stage a large Quebec-wide summit on housing bringing together different levels of government, academia, civil society and the private sector in the first year of their mandates.

“The issue of housing is fundamental for the population. After all, whether you are a tenant or a homeowner, rent and mortgage are often the biggest household expense. This is one of the central questions of this election,” said Laval deputy mayor Boyer. “We adopted a housing policy in Laval in 2017, but to find lasting solutions to the housing crisis and real estate overheating, we need a concerted approach across Quebec to find innovative measures to respond to these very complex problems which affect all levels of government.”

All of Quebec is currently experiencing the consequences of the housing crisis on the rental market and the overheating in the real estate market says Fournier, a former MNA, the youngest ever elected in Quebec at 24. “As the repercussions particularly affect our generation and will certainly have major effects on those to come” she said, solutions need to be found. “We must not wait to become the next Vancouver or Toronto. Now is the time to act.”

The summit will explore various possible solutions inspired by best Quebec, Canadian and international practices, including: construction of municipal housing, purchase of part of the housing stock or the conversion of buildings by cities to provide housing at lower cost; social utility trusts (FUS), a 100% Quebec legal vehicle devoted to a vocation of collective interest; cohabitation, with pooling of collective spaces; and long-term leases, where citizens can become owners of a home and pay rent for occupying the land on which it was built.

Home ownership programs also remain vital says Fournier, as middle-class families struggle to find accommodation suited to their salary and household size; students work full-time to pay their rent during their studies; parents fearing that their children will never become homeowners; and first-time buyers are forced to take legal risks to acquire a property in a context of multiple offers. “The will to act on the housing issue is already present at several levels, within governments, civil society and the private sector. What is needed is a political impetus that will bring everyone together around a table.”

Boyer says several issues will have to be addressed, including scarcity of land and speculation, shortage of manpower in construction, imbalance between supply and demand, complexity of municipal regulations, interest rates, taxation and foreign investment, to name a few. “We have a lot of work to do,” he says, paraphrasing Albert Einstein: “Madness is always doing the same thing and expecting a different result. If we are serious in our approach, our actions must be diversified. We must think outside the box!”

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