--- Mayor declares housing state of emergency in Gatineau
Aiming to put pressure on the federal and provincial governments for funding, Gatineau’s municipal council unanimously declared the city to be in a housing state of emergency during their meeting last week. Declared a symbolic gesture, Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin said the city won’t stop demanding help from both levels of government until funding is provided directly to local neighbourhoods.
Noting a recently signed agreement between the feds and the Québec government, putting aside millions of dollars for a program intended to build affordable housing projects in the province, the Mayor said the funding should help get some of those projects launched in Gatineau in the near future. “There are projects in numerous, if not all, neighbourhoods that aren’t being carried out because of the lack of public funding,” Pedneaud-Jobin said.
Aylmer district councillor Audrey Bureau explained that the funding must go to AccèsLogis, which has responsibility for overseeing the construction of affordable housing projects. With an approximate 1.5 per cent vacancy rate, there are about 9,000 residents paying 30 per cent or more of their income on housing, and 1,000 residents on waiting lists for subsidized affordable housing. “If you flip it upside down, it means more than 98 per cent of homes in the city are occupied,” Pedneaud-Jobin said.
Noting that the housing situation has become increasingly severe with the pandemic, the Mayor said homelessness in the city has also increased. “We all know this; it’s not going well for housing in Gatineau,” Pedneaud-Jobin said. He stated that improving quality of life and fighting poverty in Gatineau begins with addressing the housing issue.
On September 22, municipal council approved a $256,000 financial contribution from the Fonds des communautés pour le projet de logements abordables et communautaires projet Plateau to build a 73-unit affordable housing complex at 330 boulevard d’Europe.
According to Plateau councillor Maude Marquis-Bissonnette, the project is headed by Logements de l’Outaouais. Noting that the project has been on the shelf for several years, she said the financial contribution was necessary to make it possible – adding that it was at risk of getting squashed altogether. “The challenge with affordable housing projects is making them viable,” Marquis-Bissonnette said, noting that affordable housing projects are financially supported by AccèsLogis. “The problem with [AccèsLogis] is that the admissible costs to develop projects are way too low for the reality of the market in Gatineau.”
For Marquis-Bissonnette, the most important aspect of housing is providing residents with convenience and comfort in line with their budgets - which play a significant role in other facets of life – and that the city has the duty to ensure that. “Many Gatineau residents are spending too much of their money on a home,” Marquis-Bissonnette said. “That’s associated to all sorts of inequalities. When people spend more of their budget, it’s associated with less academic success, difficulties at work, health issues … Nowadays we recognize the importance of affordable housing.”