CSU Confirms Plans for Second Affordable Student Housing Unit

After the completion of the Woodnote in 2020, the Concordia Student Union is going ahead with plans for a second building

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) is moving forward with plans for a second affordable student housing unit, confirmed Laurent Levesque, CEO of UTILE, the housing non-profit that built the Woodnote. This new building will likely be finished by the end of 2025.

UTILE has said that this new unit could house roughly 144 students, or the same amount as the Woodnote. “We’re in the phase of the project where we collect objectives. The CSU is telling us the project parameters they want us to meet, and that will eventually be turned into a contract. This then becomes UTILE’s mandate for the building,” he said.

The Woodnote’s total cost was $18 million. Of that total, the CSU funded $1.8 million while $1.6 million came from the city of Montreal, and $3 million from the federal government, according to Levesque. For this second building, Levesque’s hope is to stay around the same budget. “We’re always trying to house as many students as possible without getting to a size that makes a feeling of community impossible to achieve. The realistic target is about the size of the Woodnote, and that goes for the budget too.” Levesque wishes that more funding from municipal, provincial, and federal governments would be allocated to fund this expansion.

The project is in its initial phase, so there are lots of details to work out. “We don’t have a name for it yet,” said Levesque. “The Woodnote’s name was chosen by students in part because of its design and location near Parc Lafontaine. We’ll get there [with this second building] once the land is found and the design starts to take shape. We’ll only do that once the CSU confirms that this project is something they want to do. We expect to be able to deliver the project in three to four years, which is faster than the Woodnote.”

Eduardo Malorni, the Concordia Student Union’s general coordinator, gave an update on the project. “The CSU is currently in discussions with UTILE regarding the possible creation of a second housing cooperative project following the successful completion of the Woodnote. This would manifest itself as an investment into the PUSH (Popular University Student Housing) Fund. Currently we are in discussions regarding the scope of the project and if all goes well, we will be sending a referendum question to be voted on by the student body regarding their support for the project in the March 2022 CSU General Elections.”

In a report compiled in 2020, around 50 per cent of the Woodnote’s residents were Quebecers. The other half was split between Canadian and international tenants. Levesque said that there was a turnover rate of around 30 per cent within the building, which he saw as beneficial. “It shows that students are happy to live there and happy to move out when their studies are done.” UTILE hopes to replicate the conditions of their first building with this new Concordia project., as their goal is to ensure affordable housing for students.

“We are essentially the only non-profit group to be doing this work on student housing. Our research has shown that there are over 250,000 student tenants in Quebec alone. That’s a lot of people that are suffering in the housing crisis,” Levesque said. 

UTILE sees Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante’s reelection as a green light, as she has committed to creating 2000 units of affordable student housing in her second term. On municipal contributions, Levesque said that “It’s very reasonable for the CSU to expect for the city to pitch in again. We don’t want to place the burden on student unions to fund these initiatives, so it’s good that the city is here to help. There is a lot of political momentum for this project.”

As plans get drawn up and contracts get written, the student housing crisis continues to worsen. The CSU has told The Concordian that it intends on moving forward with the construction of this second building which will help dozens of students find affordable housing in Montreal.


Photo By Catherine Reynolds

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