Editorial meeting with Valérie Plante | At the right address, with the wrong keys

You have to give it to her, Valérie Plante was at the right address on many issues.

Long before Quebec took stock of the housing crisis, the mayor of Montreal had put her finger on the glaring problem of access to real estate, affordable housing and homelessness.

And long before climate change hit us last summer with monster fires, floods and landslides, the self-proclaimed mayor of mobility was banking on less polluting transport solutions.

So at the right address. But not with the right keys to unlock it.

“Montreal is changing, changing for the better,” judges the mayor of Montreal, who The Press received for an editorial meeting. Halfway through her second term, “things could go faster, stronger,” agrees Valérie Plante. “But I work on the good deals. »

But for citizens, Montreal has become the city of a thousand construction sites. With the streets cluttered with orange cones, motorists overwhelmed by detours sometimes have the impression of being stuck in a maze.

“On the ground, we are told that there is an improvement,” assures M.me Plant. That doesn’t mean there are fewer construction sites. But there are fewer irritants. »

Since the end of June, cones must not be on the streets more than 24 hours before or after the work is carried out. Contractors must also demobilize sites that have been inactive for more than five days. The number of non-compliant construction sites has fallen by 20% since the start of 2023, according to the mobility squad which is keeping an eye on them.

While motorists are complaining about construction sites in the streets, residential construction sites are emerging at a snail’s pace.

The Regulation for a mixed metropolis (20-20-20) adopted by the administration of Valérie Plante to encourage the construction of housing for the most deprived is a total failure. It led to the approval of a single social housing project of 86 housing units in two years.

The developers preferred to pay a penalty to the City rather than integrate social housing into their projects, as the regulation provided. To convince them, the City will also increase the penalty.

However, this will increase project costs and, consequently, the sales prices charged to clients. At a time when the market is so unaffordable, buyers of new homes are being asked to subsidize social housing. This is not how we will stimulate construction.

Some developers might simply pack up and build in cities that don’t impose these rules. This will accentuate the decline in housing starts which are in free fall in Montreal. All this while we would have to double the pace to overcome the shortage.

In Valérie Plante’s defense, we must agree that the City does not have the levers to resolve social housing problems. Rather, it is up to Quebec to provide the funding.

I didn’t succeed in social housing. The reason is very simple: I took it for granted that the CAQ [investirait] like all governments over the last 40 years.

Valérie Plante, mayor of Montreal

But the money was lacking. Although Quebec has just committed to matching an envelope of 900 million granted by Ottawa. Fingers crossed we see the color of this money soon.


Valérie Plante in the offices of The Press

But back to the mayor. Its responsibility is to bring out construction sites to increase the number of housing units so that everyone has a roof at a reasonable price.

To achieve this, the City of Quebec has just launched an ambitious plan which focuses in particular on a reasoned increase in urban density. Rimouski has just implemented a property tax credit for affordable and social housing projects.

If we want to stimulate construction, we must reduce financial and administrative barriers. Reduce paperwork.

And in Montreal, all the promoters agree that it is extremely difficult to move projects forward, because of the regulations. Everything is boundlessly complex! Everything is different from one district to another!

The delays in obtaining a permit have increased by 34% over the past five years. Some entrepreneurs wait six years before being able to get started. Enough to discourage the most motivated.

However, the City has set up facilitator units in four districts to speed up the process. On the ground, we feel a desire… like the beginning of the shadow of a change in culture.

“We will have to push further. That’s for sure,” says Valérie Plante. “I want us to raise the bar in the borough processes to be more efficient… more standardized. »

We are happy to hear it.

Citizens who pay high taxes expect efficient services. Not an obstacle course when dealing with the City.

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