The city of Montreal is creating its own housing subsidy program to replace several that were suspended abruptly last month, but grants to renovate and purchase homes will only be half as generous as those offered in the past.
The city announced in mid-July that applications for grants under Rénovation Quebec that gave applicable families money to subsidize home renovations, foundation repairs and the purchases for first-time buyers would be suspended because Quebec had cut its funding. The Liberal government’s June 4 budget set aside no money for 2014-2015 for Rénovation Québec grants, which are given throughout the province and financed 50-50 by municipalities and Quebec. Montreal was expecting to spend $23 million under the program for 2014-2015 with provincial funding factored in. At least 1,300 grant applications that had been awaiting a response were put on hold and no new applications were being accepted.
Mayor Denis Coderre announced Monday the city is creating its own program, using the $11.5 million it had already set aside. It will pay eligible claimants among the 1,300 who have already filed requests, and accept new requests once the program is accepted by city council, presumably at the end of September. Emergency requests for urgent repairs will be handled immediately, Coderre said, and the city will lobby Quebec to reinstate its share of the funding.
“What’s important is that we continue to push and we reiterate to Quebec to bring back those grants, and to note that we are still in negotiations for the years 2015 and 2016,” Coderre said. The city’s bid to achieve metropolitan status, giving it more control from the provincial government to manage its own affairs, would include responsibility for social housing and renovation programs, Coderre said, ensuring they would receive full funding.
Grants to families new to Montreal to reimburse the “welcome tax” on home purchases, and to support social housing will still be provided at 100 per cent. But subsidies for home renovations, foundation repairs and the purchase of new homes that were pivotal to the city’s strategy to encourage families to move to or remain on the island will only be 50 per cent of previous levels. Grants to families buying their first home had ranged between $4,500 and $12,000, said Russell Copeman, executive committee member responsible for housing.
Last year, the Rénovation Québec program subsidized the building or renovation of 5,576 buildings, nearly half of which were in Montreal. The provincial Société d’habitation du Québec, which granted the funds for the program, has said it would try to find funds to resuscitate the program, but was uncertain it could succeed. The Société also noted that other municipalities had not suspended their renovation programs.
Projet Montréal leader Richard Bergeron denounced the city’s decision to suspend the program in July, saying it would hasten the flow of middle-class families to the suburbs.