Toronto Globe & Mail article comparing Montreal and Toronto and finding Montreal better
One of the points made in the piece, "Toronto, take a lesson from Montreal: Cities are for people," is that housing is cheaper, especially for renters, in Montreal. From the article:
The most crucial is housing affordability, which in Toronto is nonexistent. The average house cost $772,400 in May and chances are that average house is either very small, or in need of renovations. The rental vacancy rate is shockingly low –hitting 1.1 per cent in late 2017 – and purpose-built rental units saw costs spike renter’s city. Aside from being a basic human right, secure housing makes a city more vibrant and relaxed. It’s evident in almost every daily interaction, an easy, artistic vibe that’s just in the air.Partly that is because it's a weaker economic market by comparison to Toronto, which has supplanted Montreal's position as Canada's decidedly first city. A weak market has lower demand, and lower demand for housing. If the housing supply is greater than demand, prices are lower. Historically, Montreal was once Canada's largest city, so it has a large supply of "legacy housing."
But I think the other reason is that the dominant housing form in the core of Montreal is the "plex," a building type that encompasses the equivalent of more than one but less than two DC-sized rowhouses, but with five units--usually a single apartment on the ground floor and two apartments on each of two upper floors.
-- "Getting to Know the Plex: An Urban Housing Solution That’s Invigorating Neighbourhoods from Chicago to Montreal," Maisonneuve Magazine, 2005
Photo by Christopher Demuth.
That ends up providing a much larger supply of rental units.
A row of attached rowhouses in DC.
By contrast, while Toronto's housing is packed in tight, it's still detached single family housing, although increasingly, separate apartments are being created within the building envelope to generate income to help pay towards the mortgage.
A single family house, with shrinking household size, may house two people. So two units of SFH houses four people. In about three-quarters of the same space, a Montreal plex, will house a minimum of five people and more likely as many as ten to twelve people.
More supply equals lower pricing and more people being able to be housed more cheaply.
Also see "How does Montreal maintain its enviably low rents," TGM.
The article doesn't mention the plex housing type but does mention older housing stock -- supporting the Jane Jacobs point about a "large stock of old buildings" having lower running costs and rents, a lot of it, lower costs compared to new buildings with the latest amenities such as pools, and reduced demand compared to other cities elsewhere in Canada that are experiencing considerable growth.