Uncertainty hangs over project timeline despite municipal contribution.
The Concordia Student Union (CSU) Woodnote Housing Project has just received an important contribution from the city of Montreal.
Last week, Mayor Valérie Plante announced the city would triple its previous contribution to the project from $500,000 to $1.6 million, according to The Montreal Gazette. Plante was quoted in The Gazette as saying “We want this project to get done, and so we are putting in a supplementary contribution to really give them a hand so that it happens.”
The extra funding came after the group overseeing the construction, Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant (UTILE)—the non-profit housing rights organization—petitioned the city for more money, according to UTILE’s general coordinator, Laurent Levesque.
The Concordian previously reported that the housing project was facing unexpected financial difficulties. At a CSU council meeting in September, Levesque said the project’s budget needed to be increased from $14 million to $18 million. This was mainly due to the increasing cost of construction in the city and tariffs imposed by the Trump administration on steel and aluminum.
The timeline of the project is still uncertain, according to Levesque. Construction of the building still has not begun, and Levesque said he is not sure how the new contribution will affect the timeline. “There’s a lot of risk elements in construction,” he said. “It’s hard to get fixed dates right now because we depend on a lot of partners who are around the table.”
However, Levesque said UTILE’s target is to begin construction by the end of the year and to finish the project before the end of 2019.
Although Montreal has a large student population, the city is lacking in student housing. According to a study commissioned by UTILE in 2014, Montreal is in need of 4,200 beds for students. Levesque said that part of the reason for the shortage is provincial law, under which student housing is excluded from social housing projects.
In addition, “the traditional approach to student housing is residence halls, that are developed, owned and operated by universities themselves,” said Levesque. “This has been limited in supply because universities are directly dependent on the provincial government, [which] has to approve their capital projects.”
Once complete, the building located on Papineau Ave. across from Parc Lafontaine will have 90 units with 144 bedrooms.
The project was first approved by Concordia’s student body in a referendum in November 2014. According to the CSU’s website, 89 per cent of students voted in favor of the project.
Levesque acknowledged that given the demand for student housing in Montreal, the units being built by UTILE are “complementary.”
“We don’t want to pretend like the Woodnote is going to solve all of Montreal’s problems,” Levesque said. “We are hoping that there will be more co-ops like this in Montreal in the future, and that the city will finance them, and that the CSU’s lead will be replicated.”
File photo by Mackenzie Lad.