Exodus of the Poor: A Modern Tale of Montreal
Via Gino Barzizza
The Valerie Plante administration is currently going through a Pinocchio fiasco. Among other lies, the administration tries hard to sell a progressive, poppin’ image of itself through sham sustainable social justice programs.
They try to sell themselves as super green and progressive. However, under the pretense of having more socially fair sustainable planning, they have entered Parc-Extension, causing eco-gentrification and contributing to the displacement and impoverishment of residents in one of Canada’s poorest neighborhoods.
To “answer” the large disparity in tree canopy and its significant impacts on citizens’ health and quality of life, the Plante administration has put in place the “Vert le Nord” initiative. The initiative aims to reduce the effects of heat waves in Montreal’s hot spots and was kickstarted in Parc-Ex, the neighborhood with the lowest canopy cover in all of Montreal.
Although with the seemingly good intentions of reducing social inequality and contributing to sustainable development, the initiative has had terrible consequences due to a lack of actual care about residents, and the lack of consideration regarding the neighborhood’s already precarious situation.
Even before the Vert le Nord project was initiated, there was already much concern about gentrification within Parc-Ex because of the new UdeM MIL campus. The campus brings a sudden influx of demand for the neighborhood’s “cheap” affordable houses on the behalf of rich and middle-class students. The arrival of these students causes illegally high increases in rents by morally twisted landlords who, taking advantage of their tenants’ lack of knowledge regarding their rights, force long-term residents to either pay up or pack up.
As a resident expresses, within a month’s time, the owner of his home asked for 100$ more in monthly fees without any valid reason, representing an increase of 13.33% in his rent over a single month. For reference, the Tribunal Administratif du Logement’s recommended rent increase ranges between 1.28% to 3.73% for 2022, so this huge spike is 5 times above the legal rate.
Sadly, this pre-existing dumpster fire is only made worse by the greening project, which has contributed to the fanning of the flames, causing a significant increase to Parc Ex’s gentrification, and resulting in one of the first cases of eco-gentrification worldwide.
Undoubtedly, the impacts of eco-gentrification are hard at work in Parc-Ex, but they are hard to account for due to the subtle way in which they work. Simply put, eco-gentrification increases property value, changing the character of a neighborhood by attracting wealthy residents and displacing low-income, long-term residents. Looking at the timeline of events, it is safe to assume that the Vert le Nord initiative, along with the inauguration of MIL, has contributed to skyrocketing rents by 25% over the past 3 years, an increase 6 to 20 times over the TAL’s legal guidelines. This greening project is also most probably at the root of a rather big increase in municipal taxes, which has gone up by close to 1.5% in P-E, in 2022.
Through greening projects like these, the municipality aims to reduce intense heat waves and give better lung health and quality of life to the residents of Parc-Ex. However potentially good for the environment, their actions have many negative social impacts. By greening, revitalizing, and marketing Parc-Ex as a more high-end place to live, the administration is pushing out the poor, instead welcoming more “respectable” middle-class students and families. Thus, a question arises: How can the Plante administration possibly claim to have the best interest of the poor and marginalized residents at heart when the very project created for them is forcing them out of their homes?
Worst of all, residents are supposed to be grateful for all these marvelous measures making Parc-Ex more beautiful, green, and sustainable– but for whom?!
Obviously, this is yet another example of a wish left unfulfilled and Montrealers let down by their representative.
Perhaps you now feel discouraged or saddened, or maybe you just don’t care, but regardless of what you may or may not feel, I want to offer some easy actions which we can all take to help Parc-Ex residents. First and foremost, we can raise awareness about the gentrification in Parc-Ex and discourage fellow students from moving there. Furthermore, we can join protests to demand the creation of more social housing in Parc-Ex and surrounding areas. We can volunteer with local legal aid groups to inform residents of their rights so they may resist illegal rent increases. Finally, we can make sure that future green efforts actually respond to locals’ needs, rather than being elitist and top-down. Together, let’s ensure that Montreal truly fulfills its promise of sustainability, fairness, and equality.