Reining in Development

Parc Ex Residents Want New UdeM Campus to Include Social Housing

  • A 2007 mockup of what the Université de Montréal’s new campus would look like. The $1 billion project could drive up the demand for housing and rent in Parc Ex. Photo Nicolas Marchildon

Citizens of Parc Extension are calling for more social housing to be included in a $1 billion development project that borders the Montreal neighbourhood.

Four years after purchasing the abandoned Outremont train yards, l’Université de Montréal decided to greenlight the site for a new campus for the university that will accommodate 12,000 more students and employees and cost over $1 billion.

Residents north of the future campus in Parc Extension fear that if there isn’t enough affordable housing for students in the plans, demand for apartments in the area will rise and drive up the cost of rent, pushing away long-time residents and immigrant families.

On Oct. 2, the Comitee d’action de Parc Extension held a corn roast at Athena Park on Jean Talon Street to discuss the project and demand the city preserve affordable living in the neighbourhood.

Andre Trépanier, a CAPE committee worker, acknowledged that the organization can’t stop the project from happening, but said the hope is that the corn roast will get teachers and students at L’Universite de Montréal to put pressure on the city and the university to protect social housing in the district.

Park Extension City Councilor Mary Deros also attended the corn roast. She said she isn’t convinced the project will affect the area as much as CAPE fears because the UdeM Outremont campus will include 1,000 student-housing units. However the councillor noted that social housing must be preserved.

Deros stressed the fact that the Villeray-Saint Michel-Parc Extension borough has developed more affordable units that any other borough in the city. As for building more units in the future, Deros said that “there’s no real estate available unless they purchase an existing building, renovate it and transform it into a social housing unit.”

Also during the corn roast, an announcement was made about a community café under development that will be called Café Artère.
Café Artère will be a non-profit cultural café that will be owned and operated by the community. It will include a gathering space for emerging artists and a workspace featuring free wireless Internet.

Sacha Dyke, who is involved in the project, got the idea from his neighbours who felt Parc Ex needs a cultural space.
“We want a place that says yes to community cafes that are non-profit, want to say yes to non-profit social housing, we want to say yes to development, but development that comes from us and that reflects our values and
concerns.”

This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 08, published October 5, 2010.

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