You might be inclined to consider Montreal a dying breed, but it appears it's all just a matter of time before this city reclaims some of the legendary lustre its been so lacking in recent years. With the Hotel Mount Stephen getting a swanky makeover already in the works, as well as the massive Tour des Canadiens project being erected next to the Bell Centre, the downtown core is set to have yet another luxury building added to its skyline.
From the same developers of Quartier Dix30 on the South-Shore, and the proposed (and controversial) Quinze40 in TMR, Carbonleo arereported to be adding to the $400 million total investment of the Holt Renfrew-Ogilvy mega luxury store, with a 20-storey, 250,000 sq. ft. residential tower. Plans include 50,000 sq. ft of commercial space, 75 luxury condos and a five-star hotel with a 400-person capacity ballroom.
It's been a long time since Montreal has seen such investment of this scale, and Chairman of Carbonleo, Andrew Lufty, wants this new tower to be the "epicentre" of the downtown core, where residents will have a "fully integrated lifestyle" and will give people a new place to eat, drink, and connect. Lufty is calling it a "game changer for Ste-Catherine Street", and refers to it as "Westmount Square on steroids." Just by the looks of it, it certainly will be.
The project is slated for completion by the end of 2017. Another, very expensive, birthday present for Montreal.
Median condo prices in the Montreal area are up 20% compared to last August, according to a report by the Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers (QPAREB). But some areas saw even bigger price increases.
The report looked at several general areas within the greater metro area, including Montreal Island, the North and South Shore, Laval, and the MRC of Vaudreuil-Soulanges.
Of these, the report shows the North Shore saw the biggest increase in median condo prices between August 2020 and August 2021 with a 27% jump.
The QPAREB used data from Centris for the report and calculated median prices by dividing "all transactions into two equal parts: 50 percent of transactions concluded at a lower price than the median price and 50 percent concluded at a higher price."
The association noted that "some transactions may be excluded from the calculation to obtain a more meaningful median price."
If you love the Gaspé Peninsula, you'll probably fall in love with this house for sale in the Quebec region, too. With the Gulf of the Saint Lawrence River passing directly through its backyard, this property makes you feel like you're on vacation all year round — and, at an asking price of $349,000, it's actually less expensive than a Montreal condo.
The charming one-and-a-half-storey home is located in the town of Cap d'Espoir on a lot of over 43,000 square feet.
On the main floor, there are two large living rooms as well as a kitchen and dining room that overlook the waterfront with their large windows. Upstairs, you'll find three bedrooms and a full bathroom. The house also has a powder room and wood stove.
In a meeting on December 9, 2020, the Montreal City Council voted down an amendment that would have funded body cameras for Montreal police officers. The defeat of the proposal — by a vote of 34 to 27 — was just the latest turn of events in the years-long, zigzagging effort to make the cameras part of the SPVM uniform.
Now, in the wake of the wrongful arrest of Mamadi Camara, supporters of the measure have once again renewed calls for additional police accountability. Here's a complete history of the political evolution of the proposal, and where it could go from here.
The initiative saw metro, traffic and neighbourhood patrol officers test out cameras made by Axon Public Safety Canada Inc.
"In order to better protect both the population and our police officers, we must, as a responsible metropolis, seriously consider the solution of portable cameras," then-Mayor Denis Coderre said at the launch of the pilot.
Then-SPVM director Philippe Pichet supported the project, suggesting body camera videos could serve to counter viral footage from witnesses of police altercations.
"Over the past few years, we have seen several videos of police interventions that have made citizens react," he said.
"Except that these videos did not always show the entire intervention. There was almost always only one side of the coin."
"Portable cameras will make it possible to show another angle of police interventions."
What was the result of the Montreal body camera pilot?
In a January 2019 report, the SPVM concluded that "the experience of the project did not unequivocally demonstrate that portable cameras promote the transparency of police interventions."
The report claimed that the cameras had "little impact" on police interventions, though it noted that members of the public who encountered participating officers generally felt the cameras "[were] a good thing and that they [provided] a sense of security, or even extra protection, for both the police officer and the citizen."
Police also argued that body cameras could serve to "weaken the bond of trust between the population and the organization, or even the justice system" if ever there were footage of a highly publicized event that investigators did not release to the public, for investigative purposes, for instance.
Finally, and perhaps most critically, the SPVM attached a $17.4 million price tag to a large-scale deployment of body cameras in the police force, plus an additional $24 million per year.
Axon, for its part, seemed to dispute these estimates, saying in a statement submitted to Montreal's public security committee that "false ideas" about price were based on "outdated studies."
Ultimately, however, the city government decided not to move forward with body cameras. Mayor Valérie Plante made the announcement at an executive committee meeting on February 6, 2019, citing, in part, the projected costs.
"We can't sweep it under the rug, it's a major investment," she said, also mentioning perceived shortcomings in the technology used in the pilot.
"The investment would be worthwhile if we were guaranteed that the technology was there. [...] But that's not the case."
What has happened since then?
Calls for Montreal police officers to wear body cameras peaked again during the surge of racial justice protests that began in spring 2020 following the police killings of, among others, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
One petition to make cameras mandatory amassed over 150,000 signatures.
On June 2, 2020, as Montrealers took to the streets to call attention to systematic racism in the city, Mayor Plante said the city hoped to work "as fast as we can" to continue conversations with the provincial government to implement body cameras for the police force, though she didn't give a firm timeline.
The opposition in City Hall, meanwhile, has consistently pressed the administration to adopt body cameras.
Lionel Perez, leader of Ensemble Montréal, said Plante's call to shelve the project in February 2019 was the "wrong decision for Montreal and the SPVM."
Later that year, in light of a report that identified "systemic bias" towards racial minorities by the SPVM, the party once again urged for the adoption of portable cameras.
In a November 2019 statement, City Councilor Abdelhaq Sari, opposition spokesperson for public safety matters, stated that "Mayor Plante has refused to defend Montrealers' interests and bowed to the SPVM's arguments without realizing the impact this will have on all those who denounce racial profiling."
"Montrealers are in favour of body cameras. They've been proven. They are known to contribute greatly to modifying behaviours by both sides during a police action," he continued.
"Given the troubling data contained in the report on police stop-and-checks and racial identities, we need concrete solutions to curb racial profiling within the SPVM."
In February 2020, Ensemble Montréal publicly demanded that the city introduce body cameras for officers by 2021.
What happened at the December 9, 2020 Montreal City Council meeting?
Perez and Sari proposed an amendment to the city's Ten-Year Capital Investment Plan that would have diverted money from the Réseau express vélo — a signature project of the mayor's party — for body cameras.
In a December interview with MTL Blog, independent City Councilor Marvin Rotrand, who voted in favour of the amendment, bemoaned that opposition to the cameras hinged in part on the SPVM's predicted cost for their implementation — a cost the councillor claimed is "ten times higher than what it would cost in Toronto."
"The evolution of the technology means that the cost argument is no longer valid," Rotrand said, further charging that "there's no political will for the majority party to do this."
What effect has the Camara case had on the body camera movement?
Montrealer Mamadi Camara was wrongly arrested following an attack on an SPVM officer on January 28, 2021. He was released from detention six days later on February 3, in light of new evidence that exonerated him.
Just days after his release, Ensemble Montréal once again made a formal call for the implementation of body cameras, arguing that the technology would "help avoid arbitrary arrests."
"It's time to stop playing games!" Lionel Perez declared in a statement.
"For two years we've been asking the Plante administration to act on this matter; each time, all we've gotten are excuses."
"Body cameras have unanimous support; we just have to pull our heads out of the sand."
Mayor Valérie Plante, meanwhile, still says she supports the measure, but added in comments on February 8 that "it's about making sure that this time is the good time, so we don't spend money on something that doesn't work [...] as it should."
The mayor referenced the need to ensure that body camera footage could hold up in court, a prerequisite that the technology in the 2016 pilot project did not fulfill, she has previously explained.
"I don't have hesitations towards the body cams or buying them right now, but the point is, it has to work properly," she told MTL Blog.
The mayor said she has been discussing body cameras with the provincial minister of public security, Geneviève Guilbault, and that the Government of Quebec has expressed willingness to support a camera project.
"We want it. We want it as soon as we can," Plante concluded.
Ensemble Montréal plans to table its own motion calling for the "immediate permanent implementation of body-worn cameras on SPVM officers" in a city council meeting on February 22.
"We're not giving up until the Plante administration gives in," Perez said.
"Montrealers of every origin must feel protected from police repression in their city. The tragic events of recent days involving Mr. Camara demonstrate that action is needed now, for the good of us all."
"We're done accepting lame excuses and empty promises from Valerie Plante."
Montreal’s real estate market is still going strong, and if home sales keep up to the same pace, owning property in Montreal will become increasingly difficult (or next to impossible) for a large number of Montrealers.
August was a record-breaking month for real estate, with more property sales occurring last month than any August before it, according to the Greater Montreal Real Estate Board.
Housing sales rose by 8%, with 2,899 transactions made.
A large number of property sales in August 2017 were for condos, accounting for about 19% of total sales.
Condos are generally cheaper than a standard, single-family home, so it makes sense that Montrealers are opting for the cheaper option. The fact that there’s more condo inventory nowadays probably doesn’t hurt.
But while condos are an affordable option for prospective property owners in Montreal, that might not always be the case.
Over the last 30 months, real estate sales in Montreal have steadily increased. February 2015 was the last time Montreal saw a decrease in property transactions, notes CTV News.
And when sales increase, so do prices. That’s what increased competition does to a real estate market.
Just look at Toronto, where housing prices skyrocketed due to intense competition between buyers.
Now Toronto is experiencing a downturn in sales (a drop between 25%-40%) which has resulted in a slightly less expensive market.
Montreal is still far more affordable than Toronto, mind you. The median price for a home in Montreal is set at about $325,000, whereas Toronto’s average is upwards of $700,000.
But Montreal’s prices are increasing. Montreal’s average home price went up by about 4.1% last month.
Eventually, if home prices keep going up, a lot of Montrealers may be priced out of the market.
That becomes an even greater possibility when you consider how home-sales for properties over $500,000 actually went down in Montreal and the major surge in condo sales.
Montrealers are buying cheaper housing units and, eventually, that inventory will dry up, leading to higher prices for those that are still available.
Foreign buyers may also influence Montreal’s real estate market. Well, more so than they already are.
Real estate agent David Mellor spoke to the Thompson Citizen and said how Chinese buyers are increasingly snatching up property in Montreal. Over the last year-and-a-half, Chinese buyers have been purchasing more and more homes in Montreal, particularly in the west end of the city.
According to Mellor, some of these foreign buyers are purchasing three or four homes, living in one then renting out the others. And more foreign buyers are likely to do the same.
Foreign buyers aren’t anything new to Canadian real estate (just look at the “foreign buyers tax” implemented in Ontario and B.C.) but foreign buyers do tend to have the same impact on a city’s housing market: they drive up prices.
Again, it’s the whole “competition increases prices” thing. With more foreign buyers coming into Montreal and buying up property, multiple properties in some cases, then there’s less inventory for Montrealers.
Less housing inventory with a higher number of prospective buyers results in a really hot housing market where prices will soar.
So if you’re one of the many Montrealers quietly saving up enough to purchase some property, you may be out of luck in a few years time when the market gets too hot for you to handle.
But if you’re one of the many other Montrealers who’s totally okay with renting forever, then carry on and sorry to bother you.