That’s why it’s easy to forget Montreal is in the grips of an escalating housing affordability crisis of its very own, according to an annual report from the Urban Reform Institute and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
The report ranks the affordability of 92 major markets in eight countries — Australia, Canada, China (Hong Kong), Ireland,, New Zealand, Singapore, the U.K. and the U.S. — by comparing median incomes to housing prices during the third quarter of 2020.
Montreal came in 61st place — way ahead of Toronto (88th) and Vancouver (91st) with their obscene prices threatening to squeeze all but the rich from those cities — but it was still deemed "severely unaffordable," with a price-to-income ratio of 5.6.
The crisis has been getting worse for decades, states the report, which found Montreal’s price-to-income ratio was a little over 3 in 2004, and the pandemic has exacerbated the situation.
“House prices have escalated amidst the pandemic in a number of housing markets, even as incomes have been dropping for a large portion of middle-income households,” it reads.
“This is in large measure a result of substituting telework for physical commuting, which gave households the flexibility to seek new housing with more space, indoors and outdoors. This rapidly developing demand shock drove house prices up.”
Frighteningly, but maybe unsurprisingly, the housing crisis represents an “existential” threat to the middle class, it states.
“The deterioration in housing affordability represents an existential threat to the middle-income households,” it reads.
“Higher housing costs relative to incomes are strongly correlated with higher overall costs of living and thus lower standards of living.”
With a price-to-income ratio of 20.7, Hong Kong was named the least affordable city in the world.
The most affordable places, all with price-to-income ratios of 3 or less, are the American cities of Pittsburgh, Rochester, Buffalo and St. Louis.
Coming in 17th place, Edmonton topped the list for the most affordable city in Canada with a ratio of 3.8.
"Overall, the City of Montreal saw 990 $1 million–plus residential real estate transactions," including condos, attached and single-family homes, "in the first half of 2021, an increase of 112% from the same period in 2020," the report states.
Though sales in $2 to $4 million homes in Montreal rose by 138%, sales in $1 to $2 million homes made up the largest share of sales overall, with 807 Montreal properties sold in the first half of 2021, Sotheby's says.
Sales in properties over $4 million more than doubled between 2020 and 2021 — just six were sold in the first half of 2020, compared to the 14 properties sold in the same period in 2021.
The report said that according to the Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers, on average, selling a residential property in Montreal during the first quarter of 2021 took approximately 44 days, compared to the 68 it took to sell a home less than a year prior.
It's been fifteen months since the pandemic arrived in spring 2020 and Montreal is a much emptier place, according to new data from LinkedIn.
By comparing the number of LinkedIn members who moved within the country between 2019 and 2020, the online service's Workforce Report for Canada shows Montreal's "inflow-outflow ratio of residents" (defined as the "number of inflows to a city for every outflow") shrank a colossal 21%.
Greater Toronto (-12.2%), Hamilton (-18.9%) and London (-7.8%), also saw declines in their inflow-outflow ratios, compared to before April 2020.
"While big cities like Montreal and Toronto were hit hard by an influx of cases and spent much of the year in lockdown, Halifax and the broader Atlantic region has fared relatively well," the report explains.
The report doesn't affirm the classic argument that the majority of those departing Canada's cities are fleeing to more affordable provinces like New Brunswick.
That's because the inflow-outflow ratio of pricey Vancouver increased by 10.5% and Halifax's rose by 39%.
Gender and sexuality identified as areas of difficulty
The school board passed a resolution at the end of March, banning the use of the n-word in its schools.
Testimony solicited from the public included accounts from both students and parents that shared their challenges and difficulties in LBPSB schools.
Through the accounts, the task force identified four major "recurring themes":
Gender stereotypes that dictate what is "appropriate" for boys and girls
Gender stereotypes that produce a "narrow understanding" of masculinity
Gender-based double standards
Bullying linked to gender and sexuality
The report found that schools' dress codes singled out girls by forbidding them from wearing spaghetti-strap tank tops, short shorts and crop tops, explicitly banning "clothing that is unnecessarily sexualised" and "skimpy or revealing clothing."
Parents offer accounts of sexism, racism, transphobia and homophobia
One parent said they raised their seven-year-old daughter without gendering her toys, but after attending first grade at an LBPSB school, she began to tell her parents that some toys were only for boys.
Another parent said, "My son loves the colors pink and purple, but he constantly tells me he doesn’t want to wear t-shirts in those colors to school because people have told him (other students) that those are girl colors."
Mothers of Black sons that attended LBPSB schools — which have a predominantly white student body, according to the report — said they felt their sons were being subjected to racism by teaching staff.
"One boy told his mother that his teacher just doesn’t like him because he’s Black [...] On one occasion in particular, the young man was suspended because the teacher said that she felt 'threatened' by him, however, the young man said that he didn’t do anything but ask why she was sending him down to the office," the report read.
The full report, including the Task Force's recommendations, is available here.
Moving Day in Montreal is never easy, but for some, it's an awful reminder of the city's unstable and sometimes cruel rental market. The latter experience is what local housing advocates, the Front d'action populaire en réaménagement (FRAPRU) and the Comité d'action des citoyennes et citoyens de Verdun (CACV), brought to everyone's attention in a demonstration on June 30.
According to a press release, "banners were deployed in Villeray, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Parc-Extension, Verdun and on Plateau Mont-Royal on buildings where the tenants were evicted" to highlight "fraudulent evictions" and call for more social housing.
"While Montreal lacks affordable housing, rents are exploding," Veronique Laflamme, spokesperson at FRAPRU, said in the statement.
"With an average rent for vacant units of $1,200 and a median income of only $38,800, one wonders how many Montreal tenants have had to accept living in housing that is too expensive, too small, out of the way or unhealthy to have at least a roof over their heads and how many others are at risk of finding themselves on the street at this time."
The housing crisis in Montreal has been well-documented, with "nearly half of renter households under the age of 24 spending more than 30% of income on housing expenses," according to an April 2021 report by the Conseil jeunesse de Montréal.
Verdun has become a centre of housing activism — and problems
Verdun has become both a hotbed for housing activism and a microcosm of Montreal's housing crisis. You might remember those viral images of a huge lineup outside an apartment viewing.
In 2019, MTL Blog reported on the case of Karine Laviolette, an elderly Verdun resident who said she was being harassed by housing speculators and threatened with eviction if she didn't comply with their demands.
"There are still places in Verdun where rent doubles in one year and though that's not technically legal, companies get around it," Steve Baird, a community organizer at the CACV, said in an interview with MTL Blog.
"Verdun seems to be the place where they can flip the most buildings and make the most money."