A new Concordia Student Union-led affordable housing project breaks ground
University students looking for housing options outside the regular rental market usually look to residences on campus.
But soon, another option will be available to them in Montreal.
In November of 2014, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) successfully brought to referendum a plan by the Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant (UTILE) for a new student apartment model.
Founded in 2012, UTILE is a non-profit organization dedicated to studying, developing and promoting student housing cooperatives.
The project broke ground on April 17, across from Lafontaine Park. The Woodnote is a housing cooperative funded by Concordia students, community organizations and the governments of Canada and Montreal.
“Recently the Ontario government criticized student unions, claiming that they don’t provide essential services to students,” says CSU coordinator Sophie Hough-Martin.
“I argue that not only do we provide necessary services, we actually provide innovative solutions to real-world problems. We build communities and make cities better and stronger across the country.”
The Woodnote will accommodate 144 students — some in studio apartments, some units for three residents. Depending on size, rents will vary from $450 to $700, all included. And the cooperative model means that instead of having a landlord, residents will live in a building managed by a board of students and support members.
A replicable model
The social aspect of student housing was another factor driving the initiative. Those who arrive to a new city can struggle to integrate if they aren’t in a student residence. A study cited by Hough-Martin suggests that isolation is an important factor in university dropout rates.
“That’s another reason why I was ecstatic to support the Woodnote when the project came to referendum,” she says.
“I believe the model is replicable and that it will lead to better, more inclusive housing for students and all city-dwellers across Canada.”
Under this CSU-UTILE intitative, priority will go to Concordia undergraduates, who contributed $1.85 million. If there are unclaimed spots, they will be made available to students at other institutions.
City of Montreal backing
Mayor Valérie Plante was on hand for the project launch. Her administration invested $1.6 million in the Woodnote.
“Creating affordable, suitable student housing has another positive effect: it frees up spaces for other groups who are also in need of affordable housing,” says the mayor.
“What I’m most proud of — over and above the amount we contributed — is that we are taking part in a different type of project. It’s unusual for a city like Montreal to take part in this kind of funding model. But housing is important for us so we decided to invest in the necessary resources.”
The goal is to complete construction during the summer of 2020, so that students can occupy the units before the fall term of that year.
‘A new model and approach for the social economy’
Concordia contributed $150,000 towards furniture fit-up.
Laurent Levesque is the general coordinator of UTILE.
“We had our share of challenges along the road. But we are at this point thanks to all our partners who believed in our project and supported us,” he says.
“UTILE is more than willing to replicate and deploy the model elsewhere in the city, across the province and even across the country. This is more than a big deal for student housing. It’s a new model and approach for the social economy.”
Learn more about the Woodnote Housing Cooperative through the Concordia Student Union.
Find out more about student housing at Concordia.