Last week’s announcement that the federal government would continue supporting the creation of affordable housing in Quebec for another five years gave Laval Mayor Marc Demers a chance to reaffirm his desire for “ville mandataire” (mandatory city) status from Quebec’s social housing authority.
“The renewal of an agreement of more than a half billion dollars divided over the next five years is good news,” said Demers in a press release delivered July 28. “But I want to reiterate our determination to obtain Quebec’s mandatory city designation for social housing.”
Mandatory status would give Laval the right to get funds directly from Quebec’s social housing authority, the Société d’habitation du Québec (SHQ), rather than having to apply through its regional organization, the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM).
Quebec City has mandatory status. That’s why federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Denis Lebel and Quebec’s Minister of States for Social Development Candice Bergen chose Quebec City for their signing ceremony to extend the CMHC-Québec Agreement for Investment of Affordable Housing (IAH) last Monday.
“I’m pleased to announce today additional funding of $577 million over five years,” said Lebel. “We’re at Résidence des Diamants, which in 2013 received more than $3 million in federal funding through IAH to support the construction of 101 affordable apartments.”
Gatineau and Montreal also have mandatory city status, but none of the other cities within the CMM do.
Laval sees this as unfair.
“Becoming a mandatory city is the only way for Laval to receive an equitable portion of the funds that we have been cruelly losing over the course of the past decade,” said Demers. “The designation will ensure we obtain, and control the construction of, a specific number of new social housing units, something that is necessary given our demographic growth.”
Sylvain Fournier, the media spokesperson for the SHQ confirms that mandatory status enabled Montreal’s 19 boroughs to build 965 units in 2013 and 1,100 units in 2014. Quebec and Gatineau built 1,305 units during those same two years. Figures for 2015 aren’t available yet.
Fournier also said that the SHQ will not be able to designate any new mandatory cities until after a restructuring organization currently underway takes place.
Nicholas Borne, city councillor for the Laval-les-Îles district and president of the Office municipal d’habitation de Laval says that the problem stemmed from previous administrations that did not prioritize social housing.
Now that his administration has prioritized the issue, he says they need mandatory city status to get their fair share of the funds.
“When you are a mandatory city, you administer your project on behalf of the SHQ,” he said. “You can plan better what you want for your city. You don’t have to go back and forth. You get the units on the fast track.”
“The SHQ announced they have 1,000 units this year,” Borne continued. “Half of that goes to Montreal. Another number goes to Quebec and another percentage goes to Gatineau. We think that it’s unjust for all the cities that are part of the CMM.We all put money in a pot Depending on the number of people in your district, you have to give so much but you don’t get back funds based on that number.”
“Laval gives $4 million every year. We get back only $1.3 million every year. That’s been going on for at least a decade.”