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More social housing still needed in CDN
Article mis en ligne le jeudi 8 septembre 2011

The CDN-NDG borough council has authorized a payment of more than $20,000 to the Regroupement des organismes du Montréal ethnique pour le logement (ROMEL) to cover the cost of permits for a 45-unit social housing project on Côte-des-Neiges Road.

The disbursement, approved at the council’s June 27 meeting, is to help the organization facilitate social housing projects. The building had been in a particularly bad state of disrepair, requiring extensive renovations.

The new units represent just a small fraction of the 2500 social housing units that tenants’ rights advocates in the Côte-des-Neiges district have asked the provincial government and the City of Montreal to provide.

This past winter, news that 1500 condominiums had either already been built or were under construction in the Namur/Jean-Talon sector sparked complaints from housing activists that publicly subsidized housing was woefully inadequate in this multiethnic neighborhood. 82% of residents are renters and 35% of the total population spend at least half their monthly income on rent.

At the time Project Genesis’ Housing Rights Committee expressed frustration at the slow pace of the development of social housing in spite of Mayor Michael Applebaum’s support for more affordable housing.

CDN’s diverse neighbourhoods are among the most underprivileged in Montreal, with an overall unemployment rate in the district of nearly 20%. In 2009 Project Genesis joined forces with other grassroots organizations to call for more mixed-use housing. Community organizers reasoned that if 40% of residents lived below the poverty line, it made sense that 40% of new housing stock should be slated for social housing.

Last year, news that U2 would play at the now defunct Hippodrome de Montréal site prompted the Federation CJA Social Advocacy Committee to try to reach lead singer Bono in the hopes of securing his endorsement for more social housing in CDN.

The Irish rock star has long been known for his personal commitment to advancing global social justice and environmental protection. Local activists had been lobbying different levels of government for social housing at the former Blue Bonnets Raceway location, so his impending visit seemed like the perfect opportunity to raise awareness about housing problems in the area.

In addition to the scarcity of affordable housing for families and individuals, many apartment dwellings are substandard and even unsafe. A growing number are also plagued by infestations. Yet rents are disproportionately high compared to those elsewhere in the city and are continually climbing, pushing many people who are just getting by into poverty.

Unfortunately, the plan didn’t pan out. Coordinator Leah Berger tried to reach Bono for more than a year without success. She initially went through the concert promoter Evenko, then passed the request on to various intermediaries including Live Nation Entertainment, the international ticketing agent for U2. She even tried contacting him through Oprah. On the eve of the back-to-back concerts this summer she turned to the media to make the appeal for her. But all the fallback options fell through.

[ Deborah Rankin ]

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