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The invisible Minister of Housing


The rapid rise in homelessness is finally making headlines. Thanks to the well-founded anger of the mayors of Quebec, the Legault and Trudeau governments will find it more difficult 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 housing crisis ignored for years by all three levels of government.

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

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

Her spectacular absence at the summit above all suggests that in the same PM’s office, people would have feared letting the minister go into such a politically undermined forum.

Especially since it tends to blunder on a housing crisis of which it seems to grasp neither the scale, nor the complexity, nor the real causes and even less the possible solutions.

How can we forget the surreal invitation to “invest in real estate”, which she had launched to tenants who would no longer be able to transfer their lease if her Bill 31 was adopted as is? A little more and she criticized them for not being as rich as she was.

Law or merchandise?

But was it really a blunder? Or was it not rather the spontaneous reaction of a minister for whom her own investments in real estate paid off? In short, for whom housing is not a right, but a commodity.

This is where the problem lies. If, at the council of ministers, Mme Duranceau is incapable of defending the violated interests of the victims of the housing crisis, who will?

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 sending “targeted,” but insufficient, checks to certain groups of people?

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

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

Multiple faces

Because the three levels ignored it for a long time, the housing crisis has not only spread, it has become more complex. Result: its faces are now multiple. Homelessness is the most visible, but it is far from being the only one. Most are invisible. It’s being forced to choose between feeding yourself and paying your rent. Forced to stay in an apartment that is unsanitary or in poor condition.

Forced to languish on endless waiting lists for social or affordable housing that has still not been delivered. Or ousted for false reasons. Or taken by the throat because we are on social assistance or on a low salary. Etc.

The three levels of government can act on all these fronts. Ditto for the homelessness crisis. Also due to inaction on the part of decision-makers, its faces are today multiple. I’ll come back to it tomorrow.

However, other countries, including Finland, have succeeded in greatly reducing homelessness. It goes to show that when faced with a humanitarian crisis, everything is a question of political will, heart and intelligence. Point.