American tariffs, lack of labour driving up costs, says project spokesperson.
Unanticipated hikes in construction prices are delaying The Woodnote Housing Co-operative, a Concordia Student Union (CSU) initiative to help students facing difficulties in the housing market.
During the Sept. 19 CSU council, Laurent Lévesque, general coordinator of UTILE (Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant), gave a presentation to update the councilors on the progress of the project. Since last year, Woodnote’s budget has increased by $4 million, and is now evaluated at $18 million.
Lévesque explained this jump is due to unforeseen costs. “The main factor is the commercial war with the States,” he said. “Every month, prices for materials are inflating. We’re still working, by the way, with the architecture team to try to reduce the cost and not just increase funding.”
On June 1, the United States imposed tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum, which resulted in the rising costs and rarity of those materials. Other external factors are at play in the booming cost of construction projects in Montreal during the last few months. According to Eric Côté, executive vice-president of the Corporation des entrepreneurs généraux du Québec, the lack of labour and high number of current work sites increase the demand—and thus the price—for construction work.
These circumstances “can provoke a price inflation, because an entrepreneur can accept another construction contract but he will have to provide for supplementary costs, since he will have difficulty [finding] the materials and the labour to accomplish the work,” said Côté.
The land on which the housing will be built was decontaminated during the summer.
However, the start of construction depends on when the budget is finalized by UTILE and their financial partners. “I can’t confirm what the final budget is going to be because everything is being negotiated right now,” Lévesque said.
The date of completion remains uncertain. “I can’t commit to any timeline right now. [But] in the term sheet, we’re looking at late 2019 as the goal,” said Lévesque.
The Woodnote student housing will be located in front of Lafontaine Park on Papineau Ave., near the Sherbrooke St. intersection.
The 2014 market study on affordable student housing in Montreal, a collaboration between the CSU and other organizations, identified a demand of 4,200 beds for students in Montreal. The plans Lévesque presented to the CSU showed that, once complete, the four-story building will include 144 bedrooms divided in 90 units. The apartments will vary from one to four bedrooms and will offer all amenities, common spaces, as well as a rooftop access and a green alley shared with neighbours.
“The rents are going to be anywhere between 450 per room to 600-something for the studio, which is also in flux,” Lévesque said. “The numbers we have right now tend to be about 10 to 15 per cent below market rents.”
Although Woodnote’s objective is to provide affordable housing to Concordia students who are most vulnerable to high rent, it might not suit the means and needs of student parents.
“It’s really hard, from a financial perspective, to achieve something that’s affordable for student parents,” said Lévesque. “We’re working now with some other social actors to see if we could get granting for that population but we don’t have the answer yet.”
Photos by Mackenzie Lad.