Terms for the Concordia Student Union’s New Housing Decided

Deadline to Deliver Affordable Housing to Concordia Undergrad Students Is 2019

CSU General Coordinator Terry Wilkings presented information about the new cooperative student housing to council last Wednesday. Photo Josh Fischlin

The vision for new student cooperative housing has been finalized after the council of the Concordia Student Union approved a legally binding template on Wednesday.

The template, called a term sheet, clearly defines and covers the entire legal framework for the four parties responsible for creating the new cooperative housing, according to CSU General Coordinator Terry Wilkings.

“There won’t be any surprises,” he said.

The four parties are the CSU, its fund called Popular University Student Housing, the Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant—also known as UTILE—and the eventual cooperative housing itself, which has yet to be created.

“If conditions in the term sheet aren’t followed you will have recourse,” he explained. “It provides a fence that we work within and anything outside of that fence is no longer falling in line with the previously agreed parameters.”

The term sheet was distributed to councillors through physical envelopes as opposed to usual emailed files. Wilkings said the need for increased security is to ensure third-party confidentiality and avoid leaked information driving up prices from competitors. Once the project is delivered, he added that there shouldn’t be an issue in disclosing more detailed information and specifics on the conditions.

In the March 2015 CSU general election, students voted to reallocate $1.85 million from the Student Space Accessible Education and Legal Contingency fund into the new PUSH fund. The goal is to construct cooperative student housing in Quebec, with exclusivity to members of the union. The PUSH fund will provide approximately 20 per cent of the funding for the housing project.

The term sheet consists of 12 sections, Wilkings explained, which breaks down items like the different types of possible tenants, the roles of the four parties, parameters for how the housing unit will look, contingency plans in case of failures, loan and payback models and a timetable.

If the project is not delivered by the end of 2019, it will be cancelled, according to Wilkings. Delivering the project means having students moving into the new housing, he explained.

“Students voted for this in 2015,” he said. “We’re not going to deliver in 2022—that’s ridiculous.” If cancelled, all assets will be returned to their rightful owners.

Within the term sheet, the PUSH fund will loan money to UTILE, a non-profit real estate developer in Montreal. UTILE, which operates under its own board structure, will be responsible for developing the model of the cooperative housing, as well as its execution.   

The housing complex must maintain a minimum of 100 bedrooms, among other specifications. This number rises to 120 rooms if the cooperative needs to become two separate structures, Wilkings said. Ideally the building will be near Concordia’s downtown campus, he explained, but added that it’s plausible there won’t be an attractive and large enough space in the area for one housing unit.

There are four types of potential tenants for the cooperative housing. Concordia undergraduate students will be prioritized, and any remaining vacancies will be filled by Concordia graduate students, followed by students from other Montreal universities. CEGEP students are last on the list to fill the rooms, according to Wilkings. Target rent is between $425 to 450 per room each month. This is for an average-sized room in an apartment with three to six bedrooms.

Wilkings added that a provisional committee, acting as the board of the potential cooperative housing, is working on the process for selecting tenants. This committee has been set up over the past year and includes students from all four of Concordia’s faculties, he explained.

There’s still a possibility that the CSU will announce the location of the housing before his mandate ends on June 1, but it’s more likely to happen next year, Wilkings said.

As a cooperative housing structure, Wilkings envisions community-driven initiatives like collective grocery shopping, a communal bike repair shop, or possibly having Concordia’s Cinema Politica screen films outside in its courtyard.