This Montreal tenant won't leave her apartment until she is properly compensated by developer

Carla White has been living in her Montreal apartment for 10 years. Now the building is set to be demolished to make room for condos but she says she won't move until the developer pays her $50,000 and finds her a penthouse apartment.

Ste-Catherine Street building set to be demolished to make room for condos

Woman in sunglasses in front of boarded up building on downtown street.
Montreal tenant Carla White is the last holdout blocking a condo development. She's lived in her apartment for 10 years and wants a new apartment with some long-term security. (Radio-Canada)

Carla White has been living in her Montreal apartment for 10 years but now the building is set to be demolished and she says she won't move until the developer finds her an adequate apartment.

The city gave the developer, Mondev, the go-ahead to build condos at the corner of Ste-Catherine and Berri streets — but only if it could reach an agreement with the tenant.

White lives in the rear of the building which housed the former Da Giovanni restaurant, across the street from Place Émilie Gamelin. Because she's lived there for so long, her rent is low — just $400 a month — and, while she was offered money to move, she says it wasn't enough.

"What am I going to do next after this mess? Because once they pay a little bit of money to get me out of there, it's over," she said.

Mondev refused to comment but in a recorded meeting with the city's demolition committee it said it had offered White $20,000. The company says she turned it down and demanded a penthouse apartment and more than $50,000.

White's lawyer, Manuel Johnson, says Mondev did offer White an apartment in another building but she complained it didn't have enough space.

"Mrs. White isn't asking for the moon," said Johnson.

He said the developer could offer White "one of their apartments as a tenant, with let's say a five-year lease to protect the rent, that would be a decent transition."

Johnson says otherwise White needs enough money to maintain her living conditions in the long term — "not just for six months or a year."

'Two opposing rights'

White and her lawyer figure she is in a strong negotiating position since the borough's demolition committee linked the construction project to a settlement with her.

According to Johnson, this requires a real agreement with the tenant and not a ruling by the Administrative Housing Tribunal, where the two parties are due to face off at the end of June.

"These are two opposing rights," said Johnson. "There's the right to make real estate profits, but we believe that the fundamental right to housing is more important. It should have priority. It's a bit of a [social] class conflict."

The city says it believes there is "goodwill" on the part of the developer to give White a decent offer.

outside of the Da Giovanni restaurant
The old Da Giovanni restaurant is due to be demolished and replaced by a condominium complex. (Radio-Canada)

No social housing planned

The Ville-Marie borough's elected officials want this file to be settled quickly to give more life to this sector, which has both a "bad appearance and a bad reputation," said Robert Beaudry, the member of the executive committee responsible for economic and commercial development.

"We expect that there will be a deal concluded between the owner and the tenant so that we can move forward with the demolition and construction permits," he said.

The Mondev project does not provide social housing on the site, even if the sector needs it, according to the Ville-Marie Housing Committee. Spokesperson Éric Michaud said he invited Mondev to offer part of the land to the city precisely to that end.

"It is a land contribution which will allow us to subsequently develop a project there in which Mrs. White could possibly be relocated," he said.

Based on a report by Radio-Canada's Benoît Chapdelaine