Hope is on the horizon for Montreal’s struggling students

A new take on student housing finally puts students first.

Students are struggling to find affordable housing in Montreal, and ever since the tuition hikes and the recent rent increase, they aren’t left with many options.

More affordable housing will soon be available for students who need it. A new non-profit housing project has been announced by l’Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant (UTILE), a Quebec company that develops student housing. It will be located in the heart of the Griffintown neighborhood, with close proximity to Concordia and McGill University.

This new project aims to create more affordable housing for students. The name attributed to the building is “Le Cardinal,” and will be approximately 18 stories high, housing thousands of students.

According to UTILE’s website, “the 290-unit project meets the growing demand for student housing by creating a living environment that promotes academic success, exchange, and concentration.”

A study conducted by a non-profit organization showed that in the province, 77 per cent of university students are renters. Oftentimes, three or four students are crammed in little apartments because they just cannot afford to pay the rent alone. Many are also unfortunately taken advantage of by their landlords, and this has become increasingly common in the past year.

Craig Sauvé, one of the city councilors of Montreal’s South-West borough, said that many students struggle with inflation and the housing crisis. They have fewer resources to be able to house themselves adequately in good areas with access to public transportation.

Most of the current construction in Griffintown is private housing, built by developers for profit. Even so, because UTILE is a non-profit group, they have different finances. The councilor says having non-profit housing in Griffintown is an opportunity to have two different types of housing in the area.

“When UTILE came to us, at the very early stages of the project, they said they’d like to do something, but it must be at a high density,” Sauvé said.

The city of Montreal and UTILE have both decided that the entirety of Montreal and the Griffintown area would benefit from affordable student housing. Overall, this would help transform the area into a vibrant, diverse, and more sustainable neighborhood.

With gains like that, Sauvé said the council was very receptive to the idea, wanting to correct the past mistakes in terms of affordability in Griffintown. He believes that welcoming more students to the area will also help bring creativity, livelihood, and energy to the neighborhood. The council thinks it’s a big win for Griffintown and Montreal.

However, many residents are not as receptive to the idea. Despite this project being an opportunity to house students in need. Residents are not particularly happy with the new construction plans. They say the 18-story building will be completely out of balance with the neighborhood, sitting twice as high as the residential and historical buildings around it.

The councilors understand their concerns, but this decision was made for the greater good, according to Sauvé.

“When the project was presented to the city council, all 55 members of the committee voted in favor of the UTILE project, it was unanimously supported by all,” Sauvé said. From that point on, the city decided to move forward with the project.

Other Griffintown residents have also spoken out, saying that they very much welcome the project and that it will benefit the neighborhood.

The project is expected to be completed before the start of the school year in 2027.


Sounding Griffintown: where the streets tell stories

Through an immersive sound walk, Griffintown refuses to be forgotten.

Griffintown is a shadow of what it used to be. The once vibrant Montreal neighbourhood transformed into a bleak industrial area in the 70s before becoming the seemingly hip sector it is today. This new look comes with the weight of yet another unique community that fell victim to the city’s gentrification. Thankfully, there is a way to experience the neighbourhood as it used to be: by checking out “Sounding Griffintown.” 

“Sounding Griffintown: A Listening Guide of a Montreal Neighbourhood” is the thesis project of Concordia graduate Lisa Gasior. It consists of nine tracks that vary in length from under a minute to 10 minutes; each one immerses the listener in sounds of Griffintown as they follow a map of the streets. The tracks incorporate interviews from people who grew up in the area, recounting stories of their upbringing in rich detail and personal anecdotes. Through sound and the visual landscape, a vivid picture is painted. All you need is a pair of headphones, a phone, and a data connection. Anyone can access “Sounding Griffintown” by checking out the webpage.

The walk begins at the busy corner of Peel and Notre-Dame. From there, listeners are invited to follow the pace set by an echo of footsteps in the background of the soundscape. 

Intimate details are offered like precious heirlooms. At the Dow Brewery, for example, a man’s voice explains how he and his friends used to sneak up on the roof and dangle from the edge. Later, another voice speaks about the lively community of the Griffintown Girls and Boys Club where all the teenagers would hang out. While there were good times, there are difficult memories too. On Shannon street, the interviewees recount the event of the 1944 plane crash that destroyed a three-storey building and killed 15 people; later, we are told about the brutal murder of Mary Gallagher, whose ghost allegedly still roams the streets. The walk ends on a bittersweet note at the ruins of St Ann’s church, which was a community hub until its demolition in 1970. 

When neighbourhoods are forced to develop, their rich history often gets swept away. It’s important to uncover these histories and explore the backstories of our neighbourhoods in order to better understand the context of our living situations and how we got to the place we are now. 

The deterioration of Griffintown was no accident. In the early 20th century, the neighbourhood consisted of predominantly working-class Irish and Southern European immigrants. In preparation for Expo ‘67, the city made an active effort to push out these communities to eliminate what they viewed as an ‘eyesore’. The Bonaventure Expressway was extended and hundreds of homes were demolished, which turned Griffintown into a lifeless industrial sector in the 70s . The landscape changed again in 2013, when the Quartier Innovation Montréal project launched an effort to revitalize the neighbourhood and introduce new artistic and economic developments. 

As a result, Griffintown is now considered up-and-coming—but at what cost? The Griffintown of today may be shiny, but its rich history has been buried under condo developments and swanky restaurants. The gentrification of Montreal neighbourhoods is a major issue, and Griffintown is just one example. 

Unfortunately we can’t reverse time, but we can always learn the backstories of the spaces we inhabit. We should of course delve deeper as well, as Sounding Griffintown fails to include Indigenous perspectives and only spotlights certain voices; the soundwalk is a place to start, but definitely not a comprehensive history.

 If you’re curious or if you simply want to know a bit more about the city, I suggest taking some time out of your day to check out “Sounding Griffintown.” Grab a pair of headphones and listen to what the streets are telling you. 

Exit mobile version