Housing crisis leading cause of stress in psychiatric patients: Montreal organizations say

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The housing crisis is having a severe impact on the mental health of tenants, say organizations who are calling on François Legault to take action.

It has become the leading cause of stress among psychiatric patients in Quebec, according to the Regroupement des ressources alternatives en santé mentale au Québec (RRASMQ).

The organization held a news conference in Montreal on Sunday along with the Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec (RCLALQ).

The two groups presented an open letter addressed directly to Legault, which will be published in the media on Tuesday.

More than 300 organizations specializing in housing and mental health are imploring Legault to take concrete measures to resolve the housing crisis, which is causing a lot of distress.

“Unfortunately, with the current directions of the current Quebec government, there is no glimmer of hope that this situation will improve,” said Cédric Dussault, RCLALQ spokesperson and co-coordinator.

He noted “a growing sense of despair among tenants who contact housing committees and tenants’ associations.”

According to him, the increase in mental health problems is a consequence of the housing crisis.

“We are speaking directly to the premier to remind him of his responsibility to Quebec’s tenants,” said Dussault. “Tenants represent over 40 per cent of the population that the premier must serve.”

High rents, evictions and substandard housing can cause anxiety, depression, insomnia and even suicidal thoughts, say the RCLALQ and RRSAMQ.

The RRASMQ surveyed 35 resource organizations in the field to arrive at these conclusions.

Martin Blanchard, co-coordinator at RCLALQ, states that it is very difficult for tenants to obtain help from the housing tribunal when faced with eviction.

“Most of the phone calls tenants make to the Tribunal administratif du logement are hung up on before you can even speak to a human being,” said Blanchard. “There’s a robot that tells you ‘all lines are busy’ and then you hang up without even taking the time to leave a message.”

“Imagine the situation when someone comes into your home and says ‘you’re leaving.’ Imagine the strain that puts on people’s mental health.”

RRASMQ president, Peter Belland, is in the same situation.

He has been threatened with eviction since 2018. The artist, who suffers from depression, has had to resort to food banks, while 80 per cent of his income goes towards paying his rent.

“This stress is weighing heavily on me,” he said. “I can’t get on with my work. My apartment is becoming a mess. My workshops are impractical.”

The self-employed worker, who lives in Cowansville, deplores the unaffordability of housing: “A landlord wants to put me out on the street because he’d like to be entitled to this money, which now seems normal.”

If he moves out, he’ll have to pay about five times more rent than he does now.

Concrete demands

The letter’s signatories are calling for a moratorium on evictions for change of use, extensions and subdivisions, with the aim of reducing speculation.

They also want all repossessions and evictions to go through the housing tribunal, which could then ensure control and follow-up.

Finally, the organizations want a public rent register, a cap on rent increases and a government social housing program.

–This report by La Presse Canadienne was translated by CityNews