UPDATED: Increased Funding Secured for Woodnote Cooperative

Construction Delayed, Project Completion Set for Spring or Summer 2020

After surviving a 30 per cent increase over the summer, the Woodnote Housing Cooperative is set to begin construction in spring 2019. File Photo Elisa Barbier

After multiple delays and an increase to the project budget, The Woodnote Housing Cooperative has secured the $18 million total funding to push forward, with construction set to take place in the spring.

This article has been updated.

Initially budgeted at $14 million, the Concordia Student Union and the Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant needed an extra $4 million to go ahead with the project. Last Wednesday General Coordinator of UTILE, Laurent Levesque, reported to CSU council that the Woodnote Cooperative “survived the 30 per cent increase over the summer.”

The Woodnote housing cooperative is a 90-unit, 144-room apartment building designed for Concordia undergraduate students. Construction for the housing project will take place on the corner of Papineau Ave. and Sherbrooke St. East, next to La Fontaine Park.

“We are very proud that this major and innovative CSU capital project is moving along and will be breaking ground soon,” said CSU General Coordinator, Sophie Hough-Martin in a CSU press release.

The increase in the budget was mostly due to the rise of construction costs in Montreal as well as the 25 per cent tariffs on steel imposed by the Trump administration. Levesque said they’ve been working since July 2018 to resolve the issue and obtain the necessary funds for the project.

“Our objective was to find a way to resolve this without adding any CSU money to the project, which is something we accomplished,” Levesque said.

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The extra funding comes from partners of the project, said Levesque. Montreal tripling their donation last month, as well as an added $1 million from Le fonds d’investissement pour logement étudiant, contributed to the extra funding necessary. The Caisse d’économie solidaire Desjardins—a credit union that specializes in cooperatives and affordable housing—also added $1 million.

Levesque said that the rest of the funds come from a mix of different sources. CSU’s press release said other partners will be announced later this year.

Constructions Bâtiments Québec have signed onto the project, and Levesque said a contractor is confirmed too.

Because of the cold, construction for the Woodnote won’t start in November, beginning instead in the spring. As a result Levesque said it won’t meet the July 2019 deadline.

“The foundation can’t be laid until the ground thaws,” said CSU finance coordinator, John Hutton.

In October, Levesque told The Link that if the 2019 deadline is not possible, that UTILE would recommend the CSU amend the contract to extend it.

Last Wednesday, council approved that the term sheet which is a legally binding templated approved in February 2016—be updated to reflect the recent delays. The housing cooperative is now projected to be delivered in “spring or summer of 2020.”

This was a routine update, according to Levesque. The term sheet is currently at its 31st version, and is updated yearly at council to reflect up-to-date situations of the project.

“Construction projects evolve […] and it’s important for us to proactively keep CSU informed about where the project stands and for them to have oversight on the development process,” Levesque told The Link in an email.

The updated term sheet also states that there will be a 10 per cent increase in rent, but will mostly be funneled towards the rents of studios. Levesque said all of the units will be about 20 per cent below market price.

“We modified the rents in the term sheet. It’s not exactly the same as a rent increase, as there aren’t any tenants,” said Hutton. “But we do have to charge a higher first price than once planned.”

Hutton added that the rents won’t have to increase beyond inflation and over time, as other rents increase, the Woodnote will actually get cheaper compared to the average market rate.

“Increasing construction prices and rents only show how bad we need this nonprofit housing project to open as soon as possible,” said Leanne Ashworth, Coordinator for CSU’s Housing and Job Resource Centre, in a press release. “Now that the construction price is confirmed, we know it can only get even more affordable because rent increases will be capped.”