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.

Concordia Student Union News

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


$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

Concordia Student Union News

CSU housing co-operative may fail

Council also announces delays for new website and long-awaited daycare centre

The construction of a student housing co-operative may fail due to unforeseen costs, announced the Concordia Student Union (CSU) in its annual mid-mandate report presented at a regular council meeting on Jan. 24. The CSU also reported that its long-awaited daycare centre and website are behind schedule.

Housing co-op permit woes

Construction of the student housing building on Papineau Avenue, across the street from Lafontaine Park, was supposed to begin this year. However, the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough has not approved the project because it wants the co-operative to have a brick facade, said CSU general coordinator Omar Riaz at the meeting. Adding the facade would increase the cost of the building by about $200,000, which could jeopardize the entire project.

“Initially, when we made the proposal for a permit from the city, they said that if we didn’t have a facade of brick, that would be okay,” Riaz said. “Now that we’re in the final stages to approve the permit, they’re saying that it’s not okay.”

“Right now, we don’t have room for the $200,000,” he added.

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,” he told The Concordian.

In the April 2015 CSU referendum, students voted in favour of allocating $1.85 million from the Student Space Accessible Education Legal Contingency Fund to finance the creation of the housing project. That money finances approximately 13 per cent of the total cost of the $14-million initiative. Funding for the co-operative also comes from government bodies, like the city of Montreal and the Chantier de l’économie sociale.

Daycare centre and website delays

The CSU’s daycare project, which was set to open its doors on Concordia’s downtown campus in March, has been delayed because of new legislation issued by the Quebec government that requires all daycare projects approved after June 2017 to be re-submitted for approval.

“The good news in all of this is that the construction [of the daycare] is still on time,” Riaz told The Concordian. “All we’re waiting for is the permit.”

The student union has not set a new date for when the daycare will open.

Riaz was also questioned by council members about the launch of the CSU’s new website, which was initially supposed to launch in August 2017. In its mid-mandate report, the CSU announced the website would likely launch by mid-February. Councillors questioned Riaz and asked him to present a full report on the project, including costs and the reasons for the lengthy delay.

“The website is not a small project,” Riaz told The Concordian. “We’re trying to get something that’s functional and has information from all parts of the CSU.”

Tax clinic funding

The CSU voted in favour of funding the John Molson Accounting Society’s (JMAS) annual tax clinic. The clinic, which offers free tax preparation services to Concordia students and eligible Montrealers (people who make $25,000 or less annually), is in its third year. According to the clinic’s organizers, it costs between $30 and $50 to file taxes with a professional firm, so they hope more Concordia students take advantage of the free service.

Last year, the clinic was offered the weekend of March 25, just over a month before tax returns were due. JMAS has yet to announce a date for the 2018 clinic.

Photo by Alex Hutchins


Concordia and McGill students build energy-efficient rowhouse

TeamMTL gets financial support from Hydro-Québec, will participate in 2018 Solar Decathlon

TeamMTL, a group of students from Concordia and McGill, received $250,000 in funding from Hydro-Québec on Aug. 29 to go towards building an energy-efficient, solar-powered house. The company’s contribution and expertise will help the students finish their project in time for the 2018 Solar Decathlon.

It was TeamMTL’s originality that allowed them to join the competition. The students from Montreal universities built a home with a style typical to the city’s architecture: a row house, where adjacent homes share a common wall. The construction of the house began on June 1 at Concordia’s Loyola campus.

The Solar Decathlon, which was launched by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2002, had never seen a similar project and made an exception for the team to join the competition. Houses in the Solar Decathlon, according to Bruno Lee, an assistant professor in Concordia’s faculty of engineering, are usually single-detached.

Lee, who is responsible for overseeing the engineering side of the project, told The Concordian that TeamMTL’s first design was presented to the organizers last January, and they were “very open and liked the idea.”

Despite deciding on a row house, the students still managed to build a net-zero home, meaning it will be self-sufficient, using as much energy as it creates.

Lee said row houses are energy-efficient because they allow neighbours to share heating and cooling with one another. “For some people, it’s quite cold today,” he said. “They might need heating, but for some people, they still need cooling. [With a row house], I can shift around the heat.”

Lee said he believes the concept of energy shifting—extracting energy from one area to move it to another—can apply to a row of houses but can also happen within the same building.

The Concordia professor said TeamMTL was able to accomplish energy-efficiency by moving energy from the side of the house facing the sun, where there’s a heat gain, to the colder north side, because of the row house’s two thermo tanks.

Energy shifting, according to Lee, would allow Hydro-Québec to better manage its supply. He explained the crown corporation has a peak in energy use during winter and can’t keep up with the demand, whereas they have a surplus of energy in other parts of the year.

The 2018 edition of the Solar Decathlon will take place between July and October in Dezhou, China where engineers built the largest solar structure in the world in 2012: the Sun-Moon Mansion.

TeamMTL is currently composed of students from Concordia’s engineering and fine arts programs, as well as students from McGill’s architecture program, led by McGill associate professor Michael Jemtrud. There were 90 students on the team when it was first formed last September but, according to Lee, that number has since dropped to 30 active members.

Like Olympic decathlons, there are 10 different aspects on which teams will be evaluated in this solar challenge. Some aspects, such as the house’s architecture, market potential and engineering, will be assessed by professionals. Other features, such as the building’s energy consumption and its use of water, will be evaluated based on specific criteria. Each aspect allots a team a maximum of 100 points.

Last April, the Montreal-based team also received a $50,000 grant from Canada’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.

Photo courtesy of TeamMTL

Concordia Student Union News

Construction of CSU student housing imminent

Demolition of former funeral complex on land complete in “prime location”

The demolition of the building on the land where the future Concordia Student Union (CSU) cooperative student housing will be built is over, and the project’s construction is due to begin shortly.

Originally chosen for its location and value, according to CSU general coordinator Omar Riaz, the land is across the street from Lafontaine Park, on Papineau Avenue.

Laurent Lévesque, the general coordinator of Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant (UTILE), the CSU’s partner in the project, described the land as “a prime location.”

Ben Prunty, who was the CSU’s president at the time of the first study into the feasibility of the project, said the initiative is “fulfilling all the fundamentals and moving forward as planned.”

According to the CSU’s original FAQ document about the cooperative housing, the plan was to have a location “likely […] in the southwest of Montreal along the metro system’s green line.” The plans changed when the location that was ultimately chosen became available.

Lévesque said UTILE and CSU considered using the existing building on the land, an old Urgel Bourgie funeral complex, but “concerns for the quality of life brought them to favour a new construction.”

In September 2014, when Prunty was CSU president, UTILE was commissioned to do a feasibility study into the possibility of building cooperative housing. In the October 2014 study, UTILE recommended constructing a new building “as the most viable development method.” The organization argued in the report that a new building “would have lower service costs and would be significantly more energy and space efficient than the old apartment stock of Montreal.”

UTILE’s two other recommendations were buying existing apartments or acquiring a non-residential building.

In December 2014, in a CSU by-election, students overwhelmingly voted in a favour of considering the new student housing with 1,598 “yes” votes and 182 “no” votes. It was the first of two referendum questions concerning the cooperative initiative. The second, in April 2015, asked students if they approved the reallocation of $1.85 million from the Student Space Accessible Education Legal Contingency Fund (SSAELC) to finance the creation of the Popular University Student Housing Fund (PUSH).

Students voted to create the PUSH fund, which finances around 13 per cent of the total cost of the approximately $14-million project. Funding for the initiative also comes from government bodies like the city of Montreal, which announced a $500,000 contribution in February and $1.5 million from the Chantier de l’économie sociale.

Limited number of spots available

There will only be about 150 spots in approximately 70 units available in the cooperative housing, according to Riaz. The units will mostly be studios, but there will also be 4 ½ and 5 ½ that will be shared. The CSU’s Housing and Jobs Office (HOJO) will be responsible for administering housings vacancies and finding the tenants.

“We will definitely make sure it goes to students that need the financial support,” said the CSU general coordinator. HOJO’s selection will be based on specific criteria it’s currently working on establishing with the student housing’s provisional committee, put together before the land was bought.

Lévesque stressed he didn’t want to compromise the housing’s quality because of its affordability.

The issue of affordability for the student housing units was always high on CSU and UTILE’s list of priorities. Riaz said students will be able to rent at a monthly-rate of around $400 to $440. In comparison, the cheapest available accommodation at Concordia’s Grey Nuns Residence–a small single room with no sink–is $731.46 per month.

To help build the best housing cooperative, UTILE and the CSU have been consulting the housing’s provisional committee–which will eventually become the board of directors–on a weekly basis.

The committee is made up of students from various faculties who have been studying the project and making recommendations to CSU and UTILE. Tenants from the housing will also join the board.

Sidney Bhalla, one of two civil engineering students on the committee, looked into making the most environmentally-friendly building possible. In addition to studying acoustics and lighting, Bhalla and other students from the civil engineering program tried to determine whether investing in a central air conditioning system or more isolated walls was more environmentally-friendly.

The group’s simulations confirmed that having a better building envelope–the components that separate the interior from the exterior–was the best option.

According to Riaz, the contract for the construction for the housing cooperative has not been given out yet, and the CSU is still looking for a construction consultant and a company specialized in property management.

Although the property management company “will take care of repairs that are not usually taken care of by tenants,” most of the decisions regarding the cooperative will be made by the board of directors.

“Whatever [the tenants] want to do with the building will have to be a decision by consensus or by a vote at the board,” explained Riaz.

Lévesque said UTILE will be collaborating with the CSU this year, now more than ever. He hopes  students will be able to start living in the cooperative by August 2018.

Photo by Mackenzie Lad

Concordia Student Union News

Montreal to help finance CSU’s co-op student housing

The city will join UTILE and CSU in creating affordable renting rooms

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre announced on Tuesday, Feb. 7 that the city will help finance the Concordia student housing in collaboration with UTILE (Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant) and the Concordia Student Union (CSU).

Laurent Levesque, the general coordinator of UTILE, said the project has been in the works for six or seven years now. “The biggest challenge was to find land and find partners to help finance the project,” said Levesque. UTILE is a non-profit organization with a mission to help develop and promote co-op student housing in Quebec, according to their website. “The building will be ready for students starting June 2018,” Levesque added.

These affordable student housings will be located in the Plateau Mont-Royal, at 3499 Papineau Avenue in front of Lafontaine Park. The building will offer 80 units of different sizes, ranging from studios to two, three and four bedroom apartments. Monthly rent will be approximately $470 per student The housings will be available to Concordia students only.

Coderre was especially impressed with the different initiatives that helped with the creation of the student housing. “We strongly appreciate this community work. It’s created by the students, for the students,” he said. He did not fail thank the Concordia Student Union (CSU) for investing $1.85 million into the project. “We would like to highlight the enthusiasm and the engagement that the Concordia Student Union has showed since the beginning of the project,” Coderre said.

Overtime, the city will be giving $500,000 to the student housing project as it continues to grow. “It is the first time that we see such a big collaboration between the city, the social economy and a student body,” Coderre said.

“I think this collaboration with the city is very exciting and it is huge for the Concordia community,” Lucinda Marshall-Kiparissis, the general coordinator of the CSU, told the press. “From the beginning, this was supposed to be a pilot project for other universities and other campuses to realize that a project like this is feasible,” she said.

Montreal currently has more than 300,000 post-secondary students living in the city.

Concordia Student Union News

What’s new with the CSU

The CSU executives preparing for one of their biggest year yet

For the Concordia Student Union, one thing is clear—students’ needs come first. Here is what you can expect from CSU’s coordinators this year.

Orientation Concordia

Orientation is the first big project for the CSU this year, as it will welcome students from all different programs starting next week. Rachel Gauthier, the student life coordinator, is currently organizing the 30 events that will be taking place from Sept. 6 to 16. These 10 days of activities include concerts featuring local bands, club fairs, a hip-hop show and a special night out to the OUMF 2016 festival.

It’s the first year that the CSU will be partnering up with the OUMF “Gala humour de la rentrée,” taking place on Saint-Denis street. “This festival is completely french, which is really cool because it’s something that was never done before, and Montreal is a bilingual city,” Gauthier said.

Another major event during orientation will be “Wellness Day,” which will include workshops focusing on mental, social and physical wellness. Gauthier said she wants students to know what resources are available to them, and to partake in activities that make them feel better.

For more information on the CSU’s orientation week, visit their website:

Divest Concordia

The CSU has also partnered up with Divest Concordia, which aims to divest from the university’s investment in the fossil fuel industry.

“Concordia still has investments in fuel companies that are extremely harmful to our nature,” said Aloyse Muller, the head of the campaign and the CSU’s external affairs and mobilization coordinator. Muller said he wants to create social discussion about the issue through multiple avenues, one of them being from a financial point of view.

He also wants to put an emphasis not only on climate change, but on the communities that are affected by it daily. Open to all, Divest Concordia is looking for people to get involved  in various ways, such as discussion of the issues through art, demonstrations and petitions.

Sustainability at Concordia

Sustainability coordinator Lanna Galbraith said there are different projects in progress aimed to make students feel more comfortable and included at Concordia.

Starting in September, she said she hopes that the number of gender neutral bathrooms for students will increase.

Galbraith said there will also be emphasis on having a CSU that is more representative of the various cultures and ethnic backgrounds present at Concordia. She said the goal is to create workshops on social issues, now that environmental and economical topics have a good framework.

“I think it’s time to start a couple of social projects so that, when we think of sustainability, we don’t only think of it as environmentalism,” Galbraith said. In fact, sustainability is a balancing act that includes environmental protection, social responsibility and good economic practice, she said. Additionally, the CSU is working to make their office space more accessible for all students.

Affordable Housing for Students

Coming to Montreal for the first time to start university can be a bit scary, which is why HOJO, the CSU’s Housing and Job Office, helps students find safe, clean and affordable housing in Montreal. The union will be partnering up with UTILE (Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant), a non-profit organization based in Montreal dedicated to creating affordable student housing. Their goal is to build student housing with below average rent that will be managed by students, said the CSU’s General Coordinator, Lucinda Marshall-Kiparissis. “By building cooperative student housing that is not beholden to commercial interest, we’re able to say that we want affordable housing for students, and we want it so we’re not being a detriment to the neighbourhood,” she said. UTILE already purchased land on the plateau, but the project will take two to three years to really take off, she said.


With a daycare already available at Loyola Campus for faculty and staff, CSU is taking the initiative to bring a daycare to the Sir George Williams (SGW) downtown campus for students with children.

Sophia Sahrane, the academic and advocacy coordinator, is currently working on this project. “This project was launched eight years ago when the university conducted a study to see if the undergraduate and graduate students needed a daycare,” she said. “The study yielded positive results and earned municipal approval, however, the initiative faded and nothing happened.”

“Not only do these parents have a job, but they have a kid, classes to attend and homework to do,” the CSU’s general coordinator, Marshall-Kiparissis, added. Sahrane receives emails from parents interested in the daycare on a daily basis. “We need the paperwork from the government, which should arrive soon, and then we will start demolition and open registration,” Sahrane said. She mentioned that the daycare will be located on Bishop street, focusing on undergraduate students’ children, but with some place for graduate students’ children as well.

For more information on these projects, the CSU encourages students to visit their website, They have offices on Sir George Williams campus (H-711) and at the Loyola Campus (CC-426).

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