The invisible cost of housing

Essential needs
June 13, 2023 •  By Centraide
Femme souriante

Marie’s story could be anyone’s. She was a 41-year-old mother of three when she started her own business. What she didn’t know was that a stroke would bring everything crashing down. Marie didn’t have any insurance. Soon after, she went through a breakup and found herself on her own.

In survival mode

Today, more than 20 years after her stroke, Marie is still trying to get back on her feet. Every month, she tightens her belt and tries to find ways to cut her expenses while prices keep going up. “My monthly income is $1,295,” she says. “My rent is $795 a month. If you do the math, I spend over 60% of my income on rent. After paying for my medication, cellphone plan and other monthly expenses, I’m left with about $50 a week for groceries.” 

“My rent is $795 a month. If you do the math,
I spend over 60% of my income on rent.”

Séparateur bonhommes Centraide

When asked how she feels, Marie replies: “Like a little dog swimming hard, trying to keep her nose above water, just before she sinks.” Fortunately, there are some lifelines in the turbulent waters of her daily existence. One of them is the Association coopérative d’économie familiale (ACEF) Rive-Sud, a community agency that helps people manage with their income, find solutions to their debts and know their rights. ACEF counsellor Vicky Parashuk works with Marie. She goes over Marie’s budget every month and helps her manage her finances.  

Marie would like to be able to go to the movies and buy presents for her beloved grandchildren, but for now her hope is to find affordable housing, such as a co-op or social housing, just so she can breathe. 

In Quebec, 41% of respondents who spend more than 50% of their income on housing experience food insecurity according to the Financial Anxiety Index created by Centraide of Greater Montreal. 

Watch Marie’s testimony

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