We need to address the real causes of homelessness in Montreal

Thousands of unhoused people are victims of a broken system and especially vulnerable as winter arrives, yet little thought or empathy is given to the issue. 

As the streets get colder, it becomes even more urgent to address the homelessness crisis in Montreal. Temperature drops are life-threatening to this vulnerable population and exacerbate their already harsh living conditions. It’s time to talk more in depth about homelessness and its causes.  

According to the CBC, the population of unhoused people* in Quebec doubled between 2018 and 2022—totalling nearly 10,000, half of whom are in Montreal. I’ve noticed that casual discourse around homelessness is often damaging and fails to address deeper issues. I have heard the topic be approached with disgust or contempt toward unhoused people, sometimes accompanied with demeaning jokes and comments. This contempt should instead be directed toward the systems that cause homelessness and the governments that do little to address the issue. 

The lack of affordable housing and subsequent housing crisis is just one cause of homelessness. Traumatic events, extreme poverty, domestic abuse and discrimination can all play a role. Those who struggle with sickness and mental illness are more susceptible to homelessness. Systemic and personal issues create dire situations, especially for marginalized groups.

In Montreal, Indigenous people are 27 times more likely to suffer from homelessness than other demographic groups, according to a recent count. The Inuit community is particularly affected, making up 25 per cent of unhoused Indigenous people. This is the result of systemic racism, inter-generational trauma, and lack of services for those who need them most—but most of all, it is a direct example of the ongoing effects of settler colonialism.  

It is essential to view homelessness through this lens and realize that unhoused people are victims of an oppressive system. We must be particularly mindful of this fact and put pressure on governments to establish better solutions. 

The city’s relationship with homelessness is a complicated one. On numerous occasions, Mayor Valérie Plante has called on the provincial government to provide more funding and work with the city to make a long-term plan. “[W]hat I’m looking for is a bigger conversation with the entire ecosystem,” Plante said to The Montreal Gazette in June, “…and that includes the provincial government and the Ministry of Health and Social Services, because they are in charge of homelessness, mental health and drug use, because often these things are connected.” 

In early November, Social Services Minister Lionel Carmant announced that the Quebec government will grant nearly $10 million toward increasing space in shelters and establishing emergency services as the cold approaches. While this is a positive and essential step, it is not enough.

Broad reform is needed. Alberta advocates for a “Housing First” approach, which aims to break the cycle by setting up unhoused Albertans in permanent housing and providing them with ongoing support. This support would aim to address mental health, employment, and addiction. Montreal should take a similar approach with a decolonial focus, and move away from emergency solutions.

If you want to help, it’s impactful to volunteer and donate when possible. But first of all, we must flip the narrative around homelessness. Mocking and pejorative comments are dehumanizing, and it’s essential to consider the systemic issues at play. The simplest way to help is by speaking mindfully about unhoused people and considering the causes and effects of homelessness. 

*A note on vocabulary: the term “unhoused” is growing in usage due to the sometimes derogatory connotations of the word “homeless,” and to emphasize that unhoused people may have outdoor or community spaces they call home. In this article, I switch between the two terms, but use “unhoused” when referring to the people themselves for this reason.

Arts Arts and Culture

Someone Lives Here: A fight for affordable housing

The documentary depicts one man’s efforts to heal his city.

Concordia’s Cinema Politica hosted the Montreal premiere of the documentary Someone Lives Here on Oct. 2. Producer Zack Russell and protagonist Kahleel Seivright attended the event and took part in a Q&A after the screening. 

The documentary was shot in Toronto during the pandemic. Homelessness had increased dramatically during that time and winter was coming. Kahleel Seivright, a carpenter from Toronto, decided to start building what he called “tiny shelters,” which are insulated wooden boxes big enough to fit an adult and started distributing them in Toronto parks. The tiny shelters were designed to retain body heat. People without housing could therefore keep warm during the night instead of sleeping outside in the snow or under tents. 

His project quickly attracted attention and generated a lot of media coverage as well as generous donations through GoFundMe. During the winter of 2021, he built about 100 tiny shelters and planned to keep going. However, the city of Toronto decided to forbid the distribution of tiny shelters and got rid of every single one of them the following summer. 

The movie raises many questions regarding big cities’ management of the housing crisis. It depicts suffering and gives a voice to those who are neglected and rejected by society. It highlights the unfair distribution of resources and the challenges people face when trying to get off the streets, such as the lack of social workers, the limited and insufficient space in homeless shelters, stigmatization, and unaffordable housing. It is a hard watch,  as stated by a woman in the audience who was holding back tears.

Even though the movie ends on a discouraging note, Seivright and Russell made a point of telling the audience after the screening that they are working on new projects and are continuing to fight for better resources to help people who are suffering from the housing crisis.

“The ongoing conversation needs to be about why housing is continuing to be so expensive, [ …] regardless of the majority of people’s ability to afford it,” Seivright said on Instagram on the night of the premiere. He encouraged everyone to join him in his fight for affordable housing, saying that if everybody does their part, things will inevitably change.
Seivright also hosts the podcast Someone Lives Here, available on YouTube. It consists of interviews of people’s experience with homelessness and helps spread awareness.

Concordia Student Union News

CSU’s Transitional Housing Project’s second phase unanimously passed

Concordia Student Union continues its program to help students and community members transition out of homelessness.

In their last meeting, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) successfully greenlit the continuing development of the CSU’s Transitional Housing Program. This project was intended to last only until Nov. 2. However, due to its success, it has been prolonged into a phase two until Aug. 2024. The second phase is the continuation of the first phase but with a bigger budget to assist more people.

The Transitional Housing Program gives struggling unhoused students and community members the opportunity to have temporary housing for up to three months while looking for a permanent place to live. 

CSU sustainability coordinator Maria Chitoroaga, who ran for her position because of this project, proposed this program’s second phase in the council meeting. The motion was passed unanimously. 

“This project is very close to my heart. It’s one of those projects that directly impact students’ lives,” Chitoroaga said.

The Transitional Housing Program’s first phase had a high success rate. Half of the people who have been housed have already found a permanent place to live and have graduated from the program. Several people did not need the full allotted three months to find permanent housing. The remaining individuals who need help just recently started the program.

“Our projection was that people would stay for three months, but one person stayed for just under three months, and another only stayed for half a month,” said Chitoroaga.

These people exceeded the CSU’s expectations and became independent faster than expected. However, the CSU’s Housing and Job Resource Centre (HOJO), anticipates an increased demand in the upcoming months because of the housing crisis.

“I would like to keep seeing ways in how we can enshrine this project so that it is permanent,” said CSU External Affairs and Mobilization Coordinator Hannah Jackson.

The CSU owns three furnished apartment units located close to Concordia’s Sir George Williams campus. Since the start of the program seven people have benefitted from the project’s help. These people either lacked stable social networks and were faced with dangerous sleeping spaces or relied on friends, where they could only stay for a few weeks.

“What has been done with the Transitional Housing Project is pretty exciting and unique in terms of what student unions are doing to substantially make a difference with students in precarious housing, which we know is getting worse,” Jackson said.

Students who wish to apply for this program can book an appointment at the HOJO to explain their situation. HOJO’s housing search director then interviews candidates on their situation. Those who do not qualify for temporary housing can still request additional help.

Phase two’s approved budget is $30,000. This will be funded through the Student Space, Accessible Education and Legal Contingency Fund. The proceeds go to funding the housing search director’s salary, furnishing, operating and groceries for the apartment units.

Towards the end of the meeting, the council touched upon a student-led class lawsuit against Concordia University. This issue is regarding the transfer of information for the purpose of administering Concordia University’s student health and dental insurance plan. This case is still ongoing and has yet to be resolved. 


Know Your Rights: Housing Discrimination

How students can avoid a breach of their rights as tenants.

When searching for apartments online, it is common to see ads where landlords demand that tenants must be employed full-time, must have a guarantor, cannot have children or pets (often regardless of whether they are used for overcoming a disability), and many other examples that infringe on peoples’ rights.

Due to dominant patterns of income disparity and socio-economic disadvantage linked to systemic racism, sex discrimination, and colonization, the result of this kind of tenant selection disproportionately excludes members of groups facing discrimination and gives preference to white, able-bodied households without children.

Many landlords believe it is economically savvy for them to cherry-pick their tenants based around racist and colonial prejudices. Quebec Minister Responsible for Housing, France-Élaine Duranceau, in a 2023 CBC interview, stated that “The landlord owns the building, they invested in it and took the risks, and it should be up to them to decide who lives there.” This sentiment is inherently unethical, displaying plainly that our current housing system is not intended to house everyone—landlords alone decide who is deserving of this human right.

With the possibility of Bill-31’s approval approaching, a housing legislation that would give landlords the ability to refuse lease transfers without giving any reason, it is all the more important to remember that it is the groups vulnerable to discrimination that feel these negative effects more powerfully. Already, there is a serious gap in housing accessibility—CTV News stated in 2022 that an Indigenous person living in Montreal is “27 times more likely to be homeless than a non-Indigenous person.”

This housing inaccessibility is only slated to rise as rents increase unsustainably. The Regroupement des Comités Logements et Associations de Locataires du Québec (RCLALQ) analyzed 51,000 rental listings in 2022, and they found that Quebec’s rental prices rose by an average of nine per cent from 2021, with studio apartments having increased by a staggering 19 per cent. To combat these worsening conditions, protests led by housing advocacy organizations have erupted across Montreal.

Student Life Uncategorized

Concordia needs to pay attention to graduate students with families

Graduate students with families struggle with finding suitable, affordable housing in Montreal

The lack of affordable housing near Concordia University’s two campuses disproportionally affects graduate students who have families. Rents increase exponentially each year, particularly as developers renovate and convert apartment complexes into high-end luxury condos and apartments.

An article in CBC News shows that, despite the increase in availability of rental apartments in the central part of Montreal in 2020, the average rent went up to $891, 4.2 per cent higher than in 2019. Graduate student families are affected because they cannot share residences, which help other students cut down on rent and other costs. The rising cost of rent in and near downtown has made it very difficult for student families to live there. They end up having to move farther away, thus adding commute time and other considerations.

In addition, most graduate student families, particularly those that are international students, are single-income households or living on financial aid and scholarships. Most international students’ spouses accompany them on a visitor permit or have to wait for work authorizations. Finding jobs is also a difficult task due to the language barrier and lack of access to employment networks and support that are provided to citizens and permanent residents.

Concordia needs to seriously consider providing options for students with families, particularly graduate students, as they are often here for the long-term. While undergraduate housing is available through Grey Nuns and other on-campus residences, there are no such options for graduate students.

Graduate family housing at universities such as the University of Toronto has been very advantageous. These provide opportunities for socialization; particularly important when arriving from a foreign country, for both students and their families. It helps build a social network wherein these families, who understand each other’s challenges, can share helpful advice to navigate everything from university life to healthcare and education for children.

Many newly-arrived graduate student families also lack the required credit checks to get many apartments and thus find themselves in apartments that may not be suitable. International students with families also often end up spending a large amount of money to rent short-term or live in Airbnbs before finding a suitable apartment, as it’s nearly impossible to rent an apartment before being physically present in the city.

Michelle LaSalle, a Concordia Fine Arts Masters student, struggled finding an apartment with a young child, when her son was just three months old. Most families, like LaSalle’s, have a hard time finding landlords who are willing to rent apartments to families with small children, due to noise and other issues, which is also not legally allowed under Quebec’s housing laws. The process of finding an apartment with children is extremely stressful, a point to which this author can also attest to. The process is not only competitive but also involves so much emotional labor with having to convince potential landlords to rent to a family.

I, myself, was declined from even viewing several potential apartments when I mentioned I had children.

Family housing also helps spouses and children who may be isolated to connect with similar families, and can also help facilitate child-care when needed. As both the Concordia subsidized daycares and the Concordia Student Union daycare are located within the university campuses, it helps parents to be located near the daycares. In addition, schools and daycares have very fixed pick-up schedules and require parents to be able to drop anything they are doing to pick up their child in case of an emergency, which necessitates a short commute.

Lindsay Pereira, a senior undergraduate student at Concordia, set to start her Masters in English this fall, has three children and lives in a rented 5 1/2 in LaSalle. She spoke about how the increasing rents are difficult to manage on a single income, especially after she made the decision to return to school after twenty years to complete her undergraduate studies and pursue a Masters.

Pereira says that even though she lives close to downtown, commuting on public transit used to take up so much of her time. With the pandemic and shift to online learning, it has also been more difficult to find a quiet space to study and take classes from home. She would welcome subsidized housing options, particularly near the Loyola campus, with its green, open spaces that are ideal for a family and  the shuttle service that provides an easy and fast commute to the downtown campus.

Pereira ended by saying, “I am grateful that I have a suitable place, but the truth is my reality as a student with children is very different from those who do not, and it is high-time Concordia starts thinking about students with families and their needs, particularly with the financial and other effects of the pandemic.”


Feature photo by Kit Mergaert


Adapting to serve the community: a look into the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal

How front-line staff at the shelter have dealt with the outbreak and overcome challenges

The Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal (NWSM) has had to overcome several hurdles to adapt to the pandemic, and to continue to provide a safe home for Indigenous women in need.

While Executive Director Nakuset has normally been the one to represent the shelter to the public, The Concordian was given access to the shelter in order to report on the front-line workers who support the community.

“[The clients] trust us,” said Anita Metallic, residential support worker at the NWSM, a job that entails admitting new clients and managing services for them. The Native shelter is the only Indigenous women’s shelter in the city. Metallic explains that it’s a safe haven for the community.

“[At] a non-Native shelter, they don’t feel as comfortable, or even sometimes as welcomed.”

According to a survey by Statistics Canada, Indigenous women and children make up 70 per cent of clients in Indigenous shelters, and 20 per cent in non-Indigenous shelters.

In contrast, Indigenous women only represent four per cent of the population of women in Canada, and Indigenous children are eight per cent of the population of children.

Almost three quarters of Indigenous women who sought shelter did so because of abuse, and to protect their children from violence.

Residential support worker at the NWSM Anita Metallic helps to admit new clients and manage different services for them at the shelter.

“I look at them as my sisters and as warriors … [the women are] incredibly strong and resilient to last that long. It’s one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve done,” said Metallic.

The NWSM building has four different levels. Bedrooms fill the top two floors, the main floor includes the kitchen, administration office, and socializing spaces, and the basement has some bedrooms and storage. In total, there are 13 private bedrooms.

“But right now we’re very limited because of COVID,” said Metallic.

Pre-pandemic, all the bedrooms could be safely occupied, and the shelter could hold up to 23 clients, with mothers able to bring their children. Now, the top floor, called the “hot floor,” is where new clients quarantine for two weeks before moving to their designated bedrooms. If all the quarantine rooms are occupied, the shelter cannot admit new clients.

Clients are housed for up to three months at the NWSM. During their stay, the women must look for permanent housing.

If no housing is found, staff can refer clients to another shelter. The NWSM has a three-months-in-six-months-out rule, meaning clients can return after six months outside of the shelter — but clients aren’t abandoned once they leave.

“We don’t just say, ‘okay, bye’ — we will make sure that they’re okay,” says Metallic. Staff keep in touch with the women to know if they need additional services, or if they should plan on welcoming them back.

Marina LeRoy, relief worker at the NWSM, says the shelter has experienced an increase in clients since the pandemic began.

“COVID has been a little bit harder for some families, and we’ve had a few more kids than maybe we would normally,” said LeRoy.

Even as other shelters closed during the beginning of the pandemic in March, the NWSM stayed open. Staff knew the high risk of contracting the virus at the time, but did not want to abandon the task of serving women who found themselves in difficult situations.

“We knew there was a really high probability we were going to get sick and we were comfortable with that,” said LeRoy, adding, “we feel this responsibility to stay open for the women and make sure that we can keep them safe.”

The risk of contamination was high not only because workers came in contact with several people in a closed environment, but because the shelter had no government support for equipment and cleaning services to appropriately accommodate their clients.

Marina LeRoy, relief worker at the NWSM, showing one of the bedrooms.

For two months, the shelter faced great challenges as they adapted to constantly changing health safety guidelines with little to no supplies. Four younger workers–who are at less risk of developing complications from the virus–worked at the shelter overtime. LeRoy was one of those staff members.

As with other industries, she describes how, in the beginning, they had no clear guidelines on how to deal with the virus. From navigating difficult traumas some of the women faced, some with suicidal thoughts confined in their room, and trying to help mothers with their children, Leroy said it was extremely difficult.

“It was a very isolating time,” she said.

Clients had to remain in their rooms at all times while staff members delivered meals to their doors three times a day. All of the services usually provided, like mental health support and help with personal needs like medical appointments, couldn’t be given from March to June.

“We were limited in the services we could actually provide for them, and I think a lot of us took that to heart because it felt like our mandate was not completely fulfilled,” said LeRoy, adding that, “it was heartbreaking.”

“It became a job where often we had to cater to basic needs and it was very difficult to kind of promote the womens’ well being and make sure that their mental health was okay,” said LeRoy.

It was only when an outbreak occurred in mid-May, two months after the start of the pandemic, that the requested supplies and services were provided. For two weeks, staff quarantined at home while clients were housed in a hotel.

Now, the shelter is running smoothly compared to the experience during the initial lockdown. Staff practice social distancing while moving around the shelter and there’s a limit to the number of people who can be in a room. There are curfews, specific mealtimes, and a “clean house” policy is enforced, with drug and alcohol use prohibited.

In the basement, the walk-in storage closet is lined with miscellaneous supplies, boxes and bags for the women. Among the most donated items are period products and bath supplies, and  LeRoy says the shelter is always in need of good running shoes (in any size) and winter coats.

In fact, everything provided in the shelter is entirely funded by community donations. This year, all their fundraising efforts will be online.

One of the cooks at the shelter, Rhonda Beaulieu, relaxing outside on her work break.

One of the cooks at the shelter, Rhonda Beaulieu, says she has wanted to work at an Indigenous organization since moving to Montreal from Manitoba three years ago.

With over 15 months cooking experience at the shelter, Thompson’s motives are quite clear: “I want to serve my people … I know what they’re going through.”

Thompson said she’s been through an abusive marriage, but has since left that relationship. She says her experience has helped her to connect and relate with women who face the same hardships.

The shelter provides help for a variety of different needs, from medical appointments, filing for ID, help with youth protection services, mental health support, and more.

Having an advocate is fundamental to Indigenous women’s safety in several of these institutions, according to many of the workers at the shelter.

When asked about Joyce Echaquan’s death at Joliette hospital, LeRoy said no one was surprised, as there are “certain hospitals in Montreal we know to not bring clients to.”

“If I get in an ambulance and they tell me about the availability, I have to fight for them to go to different hospitals because I will not have a woman admitted in the hospital where we know that there’s discrimination and racism, because it’s really counterproductive to them actually getting the help that they need,” said LeRoy.

LeRoy has witnessed Indigenous women who are diagnosed with cancer adamantly refuse to go to the hospital. She has also witnessed this behaviour among women who have been sexually assaulted and need medical attention.

Family care worker Camille Panneton says she advocates for Indigenous women who are involved with youth protection services.

“Nothing can make them go to the hospital because of the discrimination that they faced and the violence that they face there,” said LeRoy.

Staff who accompany Indigenous women to medical appointments help to advocate for their needs and monitor their treatment. Even so, LeRoy has witnessed medical staff demean clients and refuse to give treatment.

“You hit so many barriers no matter how hard you work to promote their well being,” said LeRoy.

Women are also helped with any youth protection-related services they require. Family care worker Camille Panneton accompanies women to their appointments, and says Indigenous women also face obstacles in the youth protection system.

“I advocate for them. There’s a lot of problems and flaws in the system,” she said.

She makes sure mothers are treated equally. She’s witnessed the clients being mistreated and talked down to in a condescending and confrontational manner. Ultimately, she describes an environment where Indigenous women don’t receive a fair treatment.

“They [youth protection services] don’t respect their rights,” Panneton said.

Despite the challenges, staff work to provide for all the women’s needs.

On the day The Concordian visited the shelter, the residents had begun beading in the afternoon. Multicoloured beads were spread over the table, and while they worked on different projects, they spoke and shared with each other. There was a calm atmosphere as staff left the room.

“This is their time,” said Metallic, “we give them their space.”


Photographs by Christine Beaudoin. Feature image is an artwork found in the entrance of the shelter.


Housing advocates laud Mayor Plante’s social housing move

Landlords sound the alarm while other advocates say more can be done

Advocacy groups for social housing in Montreal have praised Mayor Valérie Plante’s use of the right of first refusal law, which gives the city priority in purchasing properties over private buyers for the benefit of the community.

The law, granted by the Charter of Ville de Montréal, was created in 2016 to afford the city greater powers in developing urban planning projects. Since then, the Plante administration has said it would use the law to help tackle the city’s affordable housing problem.

However, some groups representing landlords insist the city’s decision to purchase buildings for the purpose of social housing is a costly mistake.

Matthew Pearce, former CEO and President of the Old Brewery Mission, told The Concordian that the acquisition of Parc-

A mock advising session was at Project Genesis, a grassroots organization that helps the community resolve social issues, such as housing problems and basic income insecurity.

Extension’s Hutchison Plaza in September was a good start.

“[The mayor] should see the acquisition of the Hutchison building as the first in an ongoing process of purchasing of buildings that become available.” The creation of the law allows the city to compete with the deep pockets of private developers, he said.

About 20,000 families are currently on the waiting list, he explained.

“There are many people who aren’t homeless but are very precariously housed. Anybody who is without housing should have access to affordable housing.”

However, not everyone agrees with the mayor’s decision.

Martin Messier, President of the Association des Propriétaires du Québec told The Concordian  that the right of first refusal should only be used in exceptional cases.

“We think the best way to help the tenant is to provide financial help so that they are able to really choose the location and make sure that we have diversity in a building, so not only tenants with the same profile. I think it’s a win-win for the tenant and the landlord.”

Hans Brouillette, Director of Public Affairs at Corporation des Propriétaires Immobiliers du Québec, said he recognized that the private market is incapable of fulfilling the needs of all tenants. However, he stated that the city’s move was unnecessarily expensive and inefficient.

Aside from buying the property, the city will have to renovate and manage it, he said.

“The same amount of money would have helped many more households if it could have been used to keep tenants in their current apartment in the private market, or even to help them to move to a better apartment.”

Community organizer at Project Genesis, Darby MacDonald

“If some types of apartments are not available then the city should support promoters with subsidies to build those apartments,” he said. “It’s all politics. It’s an administration against landlords.”

In response to assertions about the private market’s effectiveness, Darby MacDonald, a community organizer at Project Genesis, told The Concordian that social housing “exists and is successful because it exists outside of the private market that isn’t serving the needs of its people.”

“Subsidies alone won’t resolve issues of people who require housing, and many of those who accept subsidies find themselves in difficult situations,” MacDonald said. One woman, she explained, accepted an apartment subsidy for five years but the landlord renovicted the building’s other inhabitants. “She’s the only person remaining and doesn’t have electricity.” 

“The solution is for the government to step in and take care of the community the way that it can.”


Photographs by Christine Beaudoin


$18-million building for affordable student housing

“Not only are rental prices hiking every year but also the vacancy rates are currently at a 15-year low,” Megan Quigley said.

As vacancy rates hit record lows in Montreal, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) and the Unité de travail pour l’implantation du logement étudiant (UTILE) strike back for student rent by opening the Woodnote Collaboration.

The Woodnote Collaboration project will be an $18-million building that will offer 90 units to house a total of 144 students. Though the building will only be built by July 2020, students can apply as of Feb. 5 for the first phase of available units. The building will be located on the corner of Papineau Avenue and Sherbrooke Street across from Lafontaine Park.

“The housing crisis is making finding quality housing particularly difficult for students. Not only are rental prices hiking every year but also the vacancy rates are currently at a 15-year low,” said Megan Quigley, an assistant at the Housing and Job Resource Center (HOJO), in an email to The Concordian. “It can be challenging for students to be competitive renters especially if they do not have credit histories, are new to Quebec, etc.”

Vacancy rates in Montreal dropped to 1.5 per cent in 2019 and are expected to keep tumbling to 1.3 per cent this year, as indicated in an article by the Montreal Gazette. In the meantime, the average rental pricing rate in Montreal climbed to $841 in 2019, an increase of 3.6 per cent from the previous year, reported Global News.

Quigley mentioned to many issues students are facing in regard to housing. “Sometimes we see students who are facing discrimination at the application stage due to their citizenship, immigration status, age, etc.,” Quigley said. “We often see students in precarious or even illegal housing situations, or being subjected to unlawful and predatory landlord practices.”

Other factors include short-term rental companies like Airbnb. A study published in 2019 by McGill University found that those companies take roughly 31,000 housing units out of the Canadian market with thousands in Montreal only, reported the Montreal Gazette.

General coordinator and spokesperson of UTILE Laurent Levesque thinks the Woodnote Collaboration project will help students in need; although the organization still has a long way to go.

“Obviously, 90 units are not enough, and we expect the Woodnote to fill up very quickly,” Levesque said in an email to The Concordian. “We are already working on another 120-unit project, open to students of all campuses, slated to open in Rosemont in 2022.”

The building currently under construction was initially funded by the CSU after a referendum in 2015. The initial $1.85 million from the CSU’s Popular University Student Housing Fund accounted for 10 per cent of the total costs. The City of Montreal also donated $1.6 million. Other investors included the Fond d’investissement pour le logement étudiant, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and Desjardins.

“Our objective now is to start many more projects, because with a housing crisis like the one we’re facing it’s urgent to offer students more housing options,” said Levesque.

Students can send application forms for available units on


Photo courtesy of UTILE


How to train your landlord

Useful tips to maintain a desirable relationship with your landlord

So you’ve moved into your first apartment. Congratulations! The problem is you don’t know the first thing about training your new landlord. A current trend in raising landlords is to let them grow up and discover the world on their own, but the truth is landlords require good old-fashioned discipline.

If you don’t properly discipline your landlord, you are not only raising one who will be troublesome for you to deal with, but one who will go out and burden other people after you leave the nest. Landlord training is a large project—one that never really ends—but this article will cover the basics and help you lay the foundation that you can use to later teach them more complex tricks and better behaviour.

The first step in training your landlord is establishing dominance. This step is fundamental because it will shape all of your future interactions with your landlord. In order to learn obedience, your landlord must first understand that you hold the power in the relationship. This can be achieved by raising your voice when necessary, learning your rights and asserting them, or even consulting—or threatening to consult—legal representatives. Ideally, you want your landlord to both love and fear you—but if you cannot have both, always choose fear.

Another important technique to remember is to reward positive behaviour and punish negative behaviour. At this stage in your relationship, it is essential to instill in them the concepts of right and wrong. You may be afraid to discipline your landlord, either out of fear of hurting their feelings or a desire to avoid conflict. But what are you really teaching them by not enforcing the things they are required to do by law? Sure, you can play the ‘good tenant’ so your landlord will like you more, but it’s more important that they learn that their actions have consequences.

Say “good job” or “nice one” when your landlord does something like take their shoes off when they enter your home, or fixes/replaces a broken appliance. Do your best to convey your disappointment in them when they try to enter your apartment without giving 24-hours notice, or if they request illegal payments like damage deposits. They might try to test your willingness to stand up for yourself, but you need to be firm and remember it is for their own benefit.

If you have an especially stubborn landlord, you may want to bring in a specialized expert such as a landlord-whisperer or the Off-Campus Housing and Job Bank (HOJO) at Concordia.

Using this framework in your landlord training will make it possible for you to teach your landlord all kinds of tricks. You may even develop a positive relationship with them. The most crucial thing to remember is that you are paying a lot of money for your apartment, and it is yours. This means you hold the power in the relationship, so don’t be afraid to use it.

Take the process one step at a time, and don’t be too concerned about overall progress—focus on small goals each day, and you will have an obedient and well-behaved landlord in no time. If all else fails, you can always find a new one next year. Good luck!

Graphic by Wednesday Laplante



Housing co-op unlikely to fail despite extra cost

Originally slated for June 2018, project now expected to be completed by summer 2019

Concordia’s co-operative student housing complex is behind schedule but not in jeopardy, despite trouble obtaining a construction permit from the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough, according to Laurent Levesque, the general coordinator of the Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant (UTILE).

The building, to be located on Papineau Avenue across the street from Lafontaine Park, was initially supposed to have a facade made of steel, wood and brick. The Plateau-Mont-Royal borough has since requested that the facade be redesigned to be made entirely of brick before the construction permit is delivered.

The problem is that an entirely brick facade will increase the cost of the project by about $200,000. At a regularly scheduled Concordia Student Union (CSU) council meeting on Jan. 24, general coordinator Omar Riaz told council the price increase could jeopardize the project. “Right now, we don’t have room for the $200,000,” he said.

However, Levesque has since told The Concordian that UTILE is working with the architect and the borough to find a solution. “The situation isn’t as dire as it seems. We’re working on ways that it’s not going to jeopardize the project,” Levesque said.

According to their website, UTILE is a non-profit organization that aims to develop and promote co-operative student housing in Quebec. The group is working in conjunction with the CSU on this project, which is meant to provide affordable housing for Concordia students.

Levesque said the project is on track to be completed and ready for students to move into by the summer of 2019. Last year, Levesque told The Concordian the complex would be opening in June 2018.

“There are ways to find [the money],” Levesque said, adding that “$200,000 represents one and a half per cent of the project cost. There’s no way you can cancel a project for this amount.”

According to Michel Tanguay, the communications director for the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough, the borough is asking the CSU to simplify their building concept.
“The borough approved the project in 2017, but the architecture has to be revised before the permit is delivered,” Tanguay wrote in an email to The Concordian.

Students voted in favour of partially funding the project in a 2015 CSU referendum. Funding for the co-operative also comes from government bodies, like the city of Montreal, and the Chantier de l’économie sociale.

If the delay continues, Riaz said, it will be a problem not just for the CSU, but for everyone who financed the project. “It’s a $14-million project. I don’t think anyone will let it fail,” he added.

Once completed, the building will have approximately 70 units, most of which will be studio apartments, although there will be a few larger units that will be shared. The CSU Housing and Jobs Office (HOJO) will be responsible for administering housings vacancies and finding tenants.

Photo by Mackenzie Lad

Concordia Student Union News

$1.5 million more for CSU’s housing co-op

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.



Montreal promises focus on housing

An update on the ongoing effort to court International students.

Concordia’s Housing and Job Bank (HoJo) is saluting a recent Montreal report calling for better housing as one of its key priorities in attracting and retaining international students.

The report, titled L’urgence d’agir pour attirer et retenir les meilleurs étudiants internationaux à Montréal, reiterated the rising importance of foreign students as a potential demographic resource for skilled and integrated citizens in a globalized world where mobile human capital is to be courted and enticed.

HoJo is joined in its statement of support by the L’unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant (UTILE), an organization promoting co-operative student-run housing in the city.

Off-Campus HoJo Assistant Kyle McLoughlin agrees the rector’s report is a start, but says the universities and government have their work cut out for them. In his professional experience, the difficulties for international students come from both being unaware of the resources available to aid them and not knowing their legal rights.

“International students pay an average of 20 per cent higher than the median rent in Montreal,” said McLoughlin of the existence of a ‘predatory market’ of landlords making a business from vulnerable international students.

“We see at HoJo an endless amount of students who are taken advantage of and who are asked for [such unlawful things as] illegal deposits, they’re asked for illegal personal information like photocopies of their passports [or] driver’s licenses, or cases where landlords refuse to rent to non-Canadian students,” McLoughlin said. Corporate entities sponsoring workers also frequently cross the line in their demands.

For McLoughlin, one particular vector of abuse is the avenue available to Quebec landlords in demanding a guarantor in for tenants they suspect of bad faith or financial insolvency, a normally sensible enough option.

“However, many companies will require that the guarantor be somebody from Quebec or from Canada, and if you’re an international student who doesn’t have any family or friend connections to the city, it can be exceptionally complicated,” McLoughlin said.

“The university can do anything it wants to in its ability to act as the official voice in these matters, but at the moment they don’t,” he said of the university’s ability to alleviate the situation, suggesting a streamlined form system to confirm student status, which confirms financial stability, as it is one of the requirements for studying in Canada to begin with.

Justice, when available, can be glacial. “The law only favours somebody to the extent that it’s enforced,” he said of the Regie du logement’s newest figures which point out wait times that stretch up to a full year. For many international students, they’ll sooner receive their degree and move on then receive a resolution to their problem from the overwhelmed Regie. “It can take so much time [to exercise their rights] that the students don’t find it worth it.”

“What we would like to see is a more effective, more streamlined Regie du logement, a body that enforces the rules and regulations that exist in Quebec, and a sort of focus towards creating a better student housing situation.”

He said HOJO and UTILE’s mission, in addition to providing legal and informative aid, is also to get the information out to both sides of the divide.

“We feel we’re educating landlords at the same time as informing students about what their rights are.”

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