When the eviction notices arrived for all six apartments in Mohammed Amfizguys building on Dec. 27, he and most of his neighbours resolved to challenge them so they could stay.
But he and his wife also started looking around at other apartments in Parc-Extension, he said just in case.
They quickly found that units are scarce, and the rent for what is available is double to nearly triple what had until recently been the going $600-plus per month in the neighbourhood.
Now, with their Feb. 28 eviction hearing at the Rgie du logement approaching, the couples worry about where the family will live come June seems to have spread to their three children, who are concerned about possibly having to change schools.
Theyre asking me questions every day, Amfizguy, who works as a technician for a telecommunications company, said of his children, aged seven, 11 and 12. Papa, are we going to leave the neighbourhood and lose our friends?
The building where Amfizguys family has been living since 2013 was sold in the fall. The new landlord notified the building tenants that he intends to enlarge the units substantially, one of the three conditions permitting a building owner to evict a renter under Quebec law.
Parc-Extension, which is a largely immigrant neighbourhood of about 30,000 residents sandwiched between Acadie Blvd. and the railway that borders Jarry Park, and running from the Metropolitan Expressway down to just below Beaumont Ave., has long been one of the poorest postal codes in Canada.
But rents here, like in other neighbourhoods, started to rise when the apartment vacancy rate across the city dropped below two per cent two years ago.
And since the Universit de Montrals new science campus was inaugurated on the other side of the railway tracks that run below Beaumont in the fall, the neighbourhood has been thrust into an accelerated gentrification process.
It has brought corresponding interest from condo and luxury apartment developers to build on whatever space is available, and a spike in eviction notices as existing landlords try to cash in on the influx of students and professionals, the local housing group says.
We definitely notice a very stark increase in the number of people facing evictions, Amy Darwish, a community organizer with the Comit daction de Parc-Extension, said. She added that the vacancy rate in Parc-Extension is around one per cent, substantially below the already critically low 1.5 per cent for Montreal as a whole.
In past years, usually around this time of year, we were seeing people coming in with problems relating to their living conditions problems with cockroaches, with bedbugs and mice.
However, in the past month alone, the group has been contacted by 30 tenants whove received eviction notices in about 20 apartment buildings in Parc-Extension, she said. The number is unheard of for the group, she added.
Those are just the situations that were aware of, Darwish said. In a lot of instances, tenants will either not be aware that they can oppose an eviction, or will be facing so much harassment from their landlord that theyll just accept to sign a deal and leave.
The situation is particularly stressful for families who need two or more bedrooms, given that the vacancy rate in the neighbourhood for larger units seems to be even lower than the overall average, Darwish said.
The pressure is high for Amfizguys neighbour, Hicham Darwano, whose wife is expecting their second child in March.
Shes more stressed about where were going to be able to live than about giving birth, he said of his wife.
They currently pay $605 a month for their 4, Darwano said. Rents for equivalent units in their neighbourhood run about $1,200 to $1,400.
The cheapest rent they can find outside the neighbourhood is around $1,000, and it means moving 60 kilometres from work, he said. He has a masters degree in environmental chemistry, he said, but works as a phone accessory salesman because hes unable to find a job in his field.
As a result, Darwano said hell have to consider renting a 3 if their eviction goes through, even though his family is about to expand.
The evictions are across the district, the Comit daction de Parc-Extension says. Theyre also in all types of buildings multiplexes and apartment buildings.
The new university campus is located in Outremont borough, at the border with VilleraySt-MichelParc-Extension borough. But a passageway was built leading from the campus to the mtro station on the other side of the railway tracks, and that has opened Parc-Extension to a clientele thats prepared to pay higher rents, Darwish said.
Renovictions, a term coined by housing groups to refer towhen a landlord pressures a tenant to leave so an apartment can be renovated and rented for substantially more, is also happening in the neighbourhood, she said.
By law, a landlord in Quebec can only evict to enlarge, subdivide or change the vocation of a dwelling.
But tenants can also be legally forced to leave due to repossession, either because the landlord is claiming the dwelling for himself or herself, or to move in an immediate family member or dependent.
However, there are new rules that restrict the right to evict or repossess when the tenant is over the age of 70.
The rules and obligations are different with eviction and repossession.
A tenant who wants to contest an eviction notice must open a file at the Rgie du logementwithin 30 days of receiving the notice, otherwise she or he is deemed to have accepted. The landlord need only to prove to the Rgie that he or she truly intends to divide, enlarge or legally change the vocation of the unit to win.
Contrary to the eviction process, a tenant who doesnt respond within 30 days to a landlords written notice of repossession is deemed to have refused it. The obligation is then the landlords to apply to the Rgie du logement within 30 days of the tenants refusal or within 30 days of the expiry of the period given to the tenant to respond.
Thats the situation for Aziz Khlifi, a Parc-Extension resident whos in limbo as he waits to see if his landlord will apply to the rental board to repossess his apartment after sending him a notice in late December. He says the landlord told him he wants to move into the building, and into his particular flat.
I have stress at work, stress at home, the father of two said. If I were still a bachelor, it would be less of a problem. I could share an apartment with a roommate if I had to. But with kids, you need space and you need to manage on a budget.
'Papa, are we going to leave?' So many families facing eviction in Parc-Extension - Montreal Gazette