Montreal to purchase 78 rooming homes to guard them from builders

Some renters in Montreal who can’t find affordable housing are turning to rooming houses, where renters pay for a bedroom in multi-tenant houses and share common living spaces.

The city says it’s investing in over 70 of them to protect them from developers.

“Rooming housing is the last defense against homelessness for many people,” said Montreal executive committee member Robert Beaudry. “This is huge to fight homelessness right now.”

The city plans to protect 78 rooming houses in nine boroughs by using the right of first refusal, allow it to purchase the homes at market value.

“It prevents the effect of gentrification or speculation on this housing,” Beaudry explained.

“Sometimes we have to create new housing but other times we have to preserve what is already built,” he added.

One housing advocacy group says it’s a way to ensure the houses don’t get flipped or torn down altogether.

“We’ve seen with how fast the speculation is going in Montreal, they’re targeted because it’s easy to transform them and make way more money,” said Catherine Lussier of FRAPRU.

But she worries if the city gets involved and fixes them up, it could eventually price out residents.

“In the past, some transformations of rooming housing forced people to leave the place.”

Sam Watts of the Welcome Hall Mission said while it’s a good move, it’s not a permanent solution.

“It’s one of the least optimal options for housing,” he said, noting that rooming houses often don’t meet modern standards.

“However someone who has a roof over their head that has a level of permanance to it is far better than the alternative.”

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