The rapid rise in homelessness is finally making headlines. Thanks to the justified anger of Quebec mayors, the Legault and Trudeau governments will have a harder time escaping.
In Quebec alone, more than 10,000 people are homeless. Including 3,000 women. Never seen it. An increase of 44% in five years.
The first cause, but not the only one, is a housing crisis that has been ignored by all three levels of government for years.
On Friday, even Housing Minister France-Élaine Duranceau was absent from Quebec’s municipal homeless summit. Unheard of, right? Only his colleague Lionel Carmant was present.
Even stranger, the ministers’ agenda provided by the Prime Minister’s Office shows that Ms. Duranceau only engaged in one activity that day: a “speech” to a CPE while riding.
Above all, her spectacular absence from the summit suggests that people in the same office as the Prime Minister would have been afraid to allow the minister into such a politically undermined forum.
Above all because it tends to stumble when confronted with a housing crisis whose magnitude, nor its complexity, nor its real causes, nor even less of the possible solutions it seems to understand.
How can we forget the surreal call to “invest in property” that she made to tenants who would no longer be able to transfer their lease if her Bill 31 were passed in its current form? A little more and she criticized them for not being as rich as her.
Law or commodity?
But was it really a mistake? Or was it not the spontaneous reaction of a minister who made her own investments in real estate worthwhile? In short, for whom housing is not a right but a commodity.
Here lies the problem. If Ms. Duranceau in the Council of Ministers is unable to defend the injured interests of the victims of the housing crisis, who will?
This means that even beyond the minister, it will depend on which “command” François Legault gives to his troops or not. Will he demand concerted work from his ministers to tackle the housing and homelessness crisis? Or will it advocate making the market as free as possible and sending “targeted” but inadequate checks to certain groups of people?
Will he be willing to work with the cities and the Trudeau government? And vice versa. How can we explain that a $900 million federal housing fund is still sitting dormant in Ottawa, awaiting an agreement between the two governments?
The answers to these crucial questions will lead to an improvement or worsening of the situation.
Because the three levels have ignored this for a long time, the real estate crisis has not only expanded, it has also become more complex. Result: His faces are now diverse. Homelessness is the most visible, but far from the only one. Most are invisible. You have to decide whether you want to feed yourself or pay the rent. They are forced to live in an apartment that is unsanitary or in poor condition.
They are forced to languish on endless waiting lists for social housing or affordable housing that has not yet been delivered. Or repressed for the wrong reasons. Or taken by the throat because we are on welfare or have a low salary. Etc.
The three levels of government can act on all of these fronts. The same goes for the homelessness crisis. Partly due to the inaction of decision-makers, its faces are now diverse. I’ll come back to it tomorrow.
However, other countries, including Finland, have managed to significantly reduce homelessness. It shows that when it comes to a humanitarian crisis, it’s all a matter of political will, heart and intelligence. Point.