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Great interview Claude Pinard, CEO of Centraide of Greater Montreal | Social housing to regain dignity



The affordable housing crisis and high inflation are now among the main factors that socio-community organizations must deal with to relieve the distress of the most vulnerable people in the greater Montreal area. This is the observation made by Claude Pinard, CEO of Centraide of Greater Montreal, who wants a national conversation to fight against poverty.

Claude Pinard became CEO of Centraide in July 2021 as the emergency financial measures to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic, in particular the Canada Economic Recovery Benefit, were coming to an end.

“For the past year, we have seen community fatigue coming, post-pandemic. The end of the assistance programs, combined with high inflation, resulted in the appearance of new clienteles for the socio-community organizations, which had a lot on their hands.

People get up every morning to go to work and they are unable to take care of their families with the most basic dignity.

Claude Pinard

“Rather than having recourse to food banks on the 25th of the month, people now go there on the 15th. Needs arise more quickly even if they are working. Despite high inflation, the economy is doing well, but the distress is accelerating,” notes the CEO of Centraide.

This is why Claude Pinard undertook to better measure the effects of poverty and to acquire measurement tools and performance indicators.

“We have just created, with Léger, the first financial anxiety index to measure economic stress over time. The first survey shows that 85% of Quebecers experience financial anxiety, but 42% consider their stress level to be moderate to extreme. Covering essential expenses is an issue for many of them,” points out Claude Pinard.

Housing, a central issue

If the increase in the cost of the grocery basket contributes to weakening the financial situation of households in Montreal, Laval and on the South Shore, it is the cost of housing that remains the main vector of impoverishment of the population more vulnerable.

“It doesn’t make sense for a household to spend more than 50% of its net income on housing. The housing vacancy rate in Greater Montreal is correct, it is the adequacy rate between income and cost that makes no sense.

“People who earn less than $40,000 a year, heads of single-parent families, people with functional limitations and under-educated young people are the first victims,” explains Claude Pinard.

The CEO of Centraide wants the organization that partially funds the activities of 350 socio-community groups and projects to be more visible on the Montreal scene.

We are planning an affordable housing summit for next spring. Everyone needs to get involved, community groups, developers, property owners, governments and even banks.

Claude Pinard

The CEO of Centraide gives as an example the City of Vienna which owns 220,000 subsidized housing units, which represents 60% of the city’s housing stock. In Montreal, 89% of housing is privately owned.

“There are four major banks that would agree to provide financing at reduced rates if the government guaranteed loans for social housing projects,” points out Claude Pinard.

We must put an end to the festivals of the housing crisis which are repeated every 1er July or with the one we will observe in three weeks with the heated accommodation that must be found for the homeless during the winter.

Annual campaign

Centraide of Greater Montreal will soon give a blitz for its fundraising campaign for the next year and hopes to raise 63 million, or roughly the same total as the 62.9 million collected last year.

“We are the second socio-community investor after the Government of Quebec. We provide funding for organizations over a three-year horizon,” explains the CEO.

With inflation at 7%, shouldn’t the funding needs of these organizations be of the same order, so that they can meet the demand?

“Ideally, yes. But Montrealers are already very generous. We have a base of 98,000 donors and more than 7,500 major donors who make annual donations of more than $10,000. We act on a pool of 4 million citizens and it is estimated that 800,000 people benefit from our support,” summarizes Claude Pinard.

Before joining Centraide, Claude Pinard held various positions with the dairy processor Saputo before serving for nine years as executive director of the Mirrela and Lino Saputo Foundation, where he developed his expertise in philanthropy and where he knew Centraide well.

“When the position of CEO of Centraide opened up in July 2021, I decided at 55 that I had to apply. It’s the biggest job in philanthropy in Montreal. Centraide is a very effective organization, which has an incredible presence and knowledge of the community as well as a great analytical force.

“We have a whole team and we want to continue to have an impact, the greater metropolitan area needs it. I would like us to develop an entrepreneurial philanthropic approach to be even more effective”, projects the CEO.

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