The citizens took the street.
Today, they are pounding the pavement.
Looking for affordable housing.
In the battle of Hochelaga.
Parents, children, grandparents.
Welfare recipients, workers, homeless people.
Members of the same community.
“What do you do, when you can’t pay the rent?”
Rhetorical question asked by Benoit, contractor, wallpaper fitter.
He’s here to protest with the victims of those who pay him.
Benoit’s clients: new condos.
Springing like mushrooms.
Everywhere in Montreal.
“The City has a keen interest in the construction of condos. And in the rise of property taxes,” says Benoit, boldly.“How does it work? When you have properties with a more expensive rent. A bigger value means more money in the City’s funds. There is a direct link, because it is the principal method of financing the City. Aside from the money it receives from other governments.”
The march goes through the small Montreal neighbourhood.
With its characteristic smell of yeast, for bread and beer.
Sheltering a poor population since its early days.
But Hochelaga is transforming itself.
Old apartment buildings are being destroyed.
And more expensive condo units are being built on their ashes.
“The basic idea,” adds Benoit, with the hint of a smile,“is that the municipal taxes, are the only outlay that the owner can pass down 100% every year to their tenants. Unlike renovation costs, the ordinary price of the rental park rises continually, because the construction of condos raises the value of the nearby apartment buildings.”
Affordable housing disappears.
Luxury products make their way to the commercial streets.
Hamburgers are replaced by sushi.
Gentrification. Population migration.
Every neighbourhood in Montreal.
Every city in the world.
Pointing with his eyes at the old buildings around him, Benoit continues.
“These people, their revenues don’t increase much, maybe not at all. If the rent increases, you find yourself paying a bigger part of your revenues for it, going to 100% in some cases. After that, there is no money for your food or other expenses.”
The protesters arrive at an abandoned field.
They will occupy it. As long as possible.
They brought their tents.
The owner of the land tolerates their presence.
The rumour circulates.
A victory that can be seen in the eyes of the campers.
“These people will have to move elsewhere,” declares Benoit, arms wide open.“But where’s this elsewhere? It used to be here, elsewhere. As a matter of fact, there are fewer and fewer places where people can move out.”
Negotiated agreements with the local police.
No fire. No alcohol. No ruckus.
The tent village builds itself slowly.
Crooked tent pegs are traded.
The assembly instructions must be re-read.
For Benoit, the solution is not to forbid the construction of condos.
The problem lies elsewhere.
“If this system of municipal financing perpetuates, there is no solution. The legislation has to change. The tax increase of the neighbouring buildings should be avoided when new condominiums are built.”
The free buffet draws the neighbours.
Organic cakes, vegetarian meals and hot-dogs.
An eclectic offer at the image of the neighbourhood.
Party is in the air.
Tonight, an anarchist orchestra performs.
Tomorrow, the projection of a documentary movie on the occupation of cities around the world.
“The problem is simple, untangles Benoit, but it is also complex because it affects people’s lives on many aspects. What do you do, when you can’t pay the rent?”
Two days later.
The small village disappeared.
Only a handful of squatters.
Left to build a barricade.
With scrap materials.
The day after. Police officers kick them out.