Student union’s project gets a welcome cash infusion from new donor
Concordia Student Union (CSU)’s cooperative student housing project has received a boost thanks to a $1.85-million partnership deal with the Chantier de L’Économie Sociale, a provincial collective promoting the social economy and affordable community housing initiatives.
Concretely, this could translate into a financial aid of up to $1.5 million from the collective that would have been otherwise borrowed from banks at an interest rate. Once the CSU’s $1.85 million commitment, the project’s estimated cost of slightly above $6 million will mean only around half of the total amount will have to be borrowed from traditional financial institutions.
Getting involved with social and solidarity economy
In a presentation that took place during last week’s CSU meeting, the Chantier’s Chief Executive Officer Nancy Neamtan presented what it meant to participate in the social and solidarity economy.
Described as an alternative to the traditional economic system mainly looking to create profits, this new approach to economic development is primarily focused on community participation and empowerment, and on individual and collective responsibility.
Neamtan stressed the fact that by participating in social and solidarity economy, investors and involved communities learn to “use money in a different way” so to effectively change the way the current economic structures work.
According to VP External and Advocacy Terry Wilkings, this project will operate under the idea of ‘patient capital’ that does not necessitate quick paybacks.
“We have a very unique service at the CSU, which is the off-campus Housing and Job Bank; other university student unions do not provide this level of service. However, repeatedly what we hear from the staff members and coordinators is that they’re servicing students when they’re already in crisis mode. Instead of lobbying the municipal government, what we would like to do is demonstrate feasible alternatives that replace the tenant-landlord relationship with cooperative student ownership,” he said.
What it means for Concordia students
At the next elections, the CSU will present to the student body a referendum question asking if they’re willing to approve the creation of a fund to be used in this above-mentioned housing project. It will also ask approval for a contribution of up to $1.85 million to the project from the student space fund.
For now, no precise timeline was offered by the CSU concerning the actual housing project, most probably due to the fact that it is still in the early stages. Once operational, it will take somewhere between 12 and 17 years to pay back, thanks to a unique and flexible payback schedule and depending on interest rate fluctuations which will see the banks being paid back first and the patient capital investors able to wait.
Since the building is an asset, once the loan is repaid it can be further leveraged to help fund for more student housing, thus perpetuating the cycle.
There are currently two examples of housing co-ops for Quebec students: in Sherbrooke and in Trois-Rivieres.
Concordia’s co-op housing rundown:
Cost, per room: $425-$450/room (80 per cent of median), including heating and electricity.
Where: Undetermined yet, but will be in a region with low median rent, but within a 20 minute radius from the downtown campus.
How big: 100-150 beds.
Structure: Self managing co-op, which means lower management and staff costs, but no front desk, meal plans, or security (unless the co-op is willing to pay more for those services).
Support: Budget accounts for administrative personnel for collecting accounting, rent, insurance coverage, reparation and maintenance.
Leases: 12-month leases, can be sublet, and can be renewed each year (unlike current student housing which forces tenants to move out after the first year.)
Governance: Nine-person board made up of six tenant-member directors, and three support-members.
To find out more, attend Concordia’s first student housing fair on Tuesday, Feb. 17 at the LB Atrium from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.