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October, 2007

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Still a need for affordable housing
Here at Sun Youth
by Nicolas Carpentier
It’s now a well-known fact: there is less and less affordable housing in Montreal. This tendency has been growing for the past 10 years and has reached a point where community organizations such as Sun Youth have to intervene to lessen the impact of this shortage on low-income families.
Since 2001, our organization, along with other partners, has been involved in a relocating operation for underprivileged families. This operation culminates around July 1 — Canada Day across the country but also Moving Day for a lot of Quebecers.
Sun Youth has been aware of this housing shortage for many years. According to Tommy Kulczyk, Director of Emergency Services and assistant to the Executive Vice-President, the situation started to get worse about a decade ago. “We meet many low-income families through our emergency assistance program for fire victims. In the past, families left on the sidewalk after a fire destroyed their apartment could expect to find a new residence in 3 or 4 days. Now it can take 3 or 4 months. ”
Kulczyk says that, before 2001, there was less construction of buildings with large apartments, especially low-cost housing.  This made it hard for families with children. This situation has encouraged the City of Montreal, the Office Municipal d’Habitation de Montréal and Sun Youth to team up and offer services to families having a hard time finding an affordable place to live when their lease expires. The Government and the City have made the construction of affordable housing one of their priorities since this system was put in place.
“When this operation got started in 2001, no one knew what to expect; strategies were developed as we went along, trying to meet every need in the best way we could, ” Kulczyk says. “It was really in 2002 that things got more organized. Now, six years later, it’s running quite smoothly. Financial support has been made available to low-income families to subsidize part of their rent. There are currently over 2600 benefitting from this support each year. ”
Through this annual operation, Sun Youth and its partners conduct visits of available and affordable apartments with the families who need a place to stay. Then follow-ups are done with these families. The organization also transports people from temporary shelters to their new dwellings and offers high priority household items to the new tenants, a much-appreciated house-warming gift.
“The housing situation has been improving slightly every year since 2001 because all of the actors involved are working hard to correct the problem. The government subsidies available to low-income families help to compensate for the shortage of affordable housing, but they won ’t last forever. The only long-term solution is to build new low-cost housing complexes, ” Kulczyk says.
In the meantime, here’s some advice from Tommy Kulczyk for Senior Times readers looking for a new apartment: make sure it ’s well-insulated. Many people seeking help with Sun Youth have a hard time making ends meet in the winter months because their heating costs are much higher than what they originally expected. Don ’t be afraid to ask the landlord and current tenants questions.

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