From Montreal to Toronto: Exploring Canada's Housing Crises and Their Impact on Newcomers



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I- Montreal Renters Turn to Apartment Swapping Amid 'Crazy' Affordability Crunch

The affordability crisis in Montreal has led many renters to explore alternative solutions to find suitable housing within their means. One increasingly popular method is apartment swapping, a practice that allows individuals to switch homes through mutual lease transfers. As the city's rental prices continue to rise, apartment swapping has become a valuable tool for renters to maintain affordable housing in a rapidly changing market.

The recent surge in apartment swapping can be attributed to the significant increase in rental prices in Montreal. According to Rentals.ca, the average asking rent in the city reached $1,987 in July, marking a 15.3 percent annual increase. This spike in rental costs places Montreal among the top spots for the fastest rent growth in Canada's largest markets. In fact, the Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation recorded a 5.4 percent annual increase in average two-bedroom rent in the Montreal area in 2022, the highest in two decades.

So, what exactly does apartment swapping entail? Apartment swapping occurs when renters engage in lease transfers, enabling them to find precisely what they are looking for and exchange homes with another party. In Quebec, lease transfers are legal, providing renters with a valuable tool to access affordable housing in a dynamic real estate market. Although lease transfers are formal processes, they also serve as an informal means of rent control in the province.

In Quebec, landlords have the authority to request a rent increase deemed "just and reasonable" before lease renewal. However, tenants have the ability to negotiate or refuse the increase. In case of a disagreement, both parties can escalate the matter to the province's rental board, which has the power to set a fixed price. Apartment swaps build upon the foundation of lease transfers, offering renters the opportunity not only to exercise choice in apartment hunting but also to collaborate with fellow renters to maintain the terms of their leases as agreed upon with their landlords.

In addition to rising rental prices, Montreal is also grappling with a concerning proportion of vacant apartments. Vacancy rates surged from 1.5 percent in 2019 to three percent in 2021 due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although vacancy rates slightly decreased to two percent in 2022, Montreal continues to face severe housing challenges. A study conducted by Centraide Montreal earlier this year revealed that one in five households in the city cannot afford both rent and basic necessities. The strain on affordable housing has detrimental effects on various aspects of society, including child development, mental health, food security, and homelessness.

The housing crisis in Montreal extends beyond traditional renters. Students, who make up a significant portion of the population in a city that houses four universities, are also feeling the pressure. Some students have resorted to cramming multiple individuals into single-bedroom apartments due to the limited options available. A recent study by l'Unité de Travail pour l'Implantation de Logement Étudiant indicated that rent for two-bedroom apartments for students has surged by 20 percent over the past two years.

The challenging housing market and increasing costs have motivated renters like Gaby to turn to apartment swapping as a solution to finding suitable accommodations in Montreal. However, proposed legislative changes in Quebec pose a potential threat to apartment swapping and lease transfers, further exacerbating the housing crisis.

II- Toronto's Housing Crisis Leaves Newcomers and Residents in a Lurch

Toronto is currently grappling with a severe housing crisis, which is affecting both newcomers to the city and long-time residents. Without effective collaboration between all levels of government, Toronto risks losing its diversity and talent. As the city's housing market has faced high costs and a lack of supply for years, the problem has magnified with the lifting of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and increased immigration targets.

Despite a temporary slow-down in the housing market due to higher interest rates, Toronto has experienced an overall rise in housing prices over the past year. Many find that housing options are simply unaffordable, and with projected record levels of immigration in Canada, the problem is expected to intensify if further action is not taken promptly.

The housing crisis in Toronto has reached critical levels, with hundreds of asylum seekers and refugees left without secure accommodation. As the summer heat intensifies, newcomers have been shuffled between churches and hotels while private, non-profit, and public workers strive to secure shelter for them. Although efforts have been made to temporarily increase the number of shelter beds, additional measures are necessary.

It is important to note that the housing crisis in Toronto predates the recent spike in immigration numbers. However, the surge in immigration has undoubtedly compounded the situation. Recognizing the urgency of the issue, the Canadian government has doubled federal funding for homelessness, allocating over $290 million through the Reaching Home: Canada's Homelessness Strategy to address the problem in Toronto.

The impacts of the housing crisis are already being felt in terms of short-term shelter and permanent housing options. If left unresolved, the crisis poses a significant risk to the social fabric of the city, potentially resulting in the departure of diverse communities and talented individuals. To mitigate these potential consequences, it is crucial for all levels of government to work together swiftly and effectively.

From Montreal to Toronto: Exploring Canada\'s Housing Crises and Their Impact on Newcomers

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