News, SSMU

SSMU Board of Directors hear property proposal for Affordable Student Housing Plan, approves stipend for Divest McGill occupation

During the March 10 meeting of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Board of Directors (BoD), vice-president (VP) External Sacha Delouvrier presented an update on the Affordable Student Housing Plan

Adopted by the Legislative Council in February 2020, the plan includes a partnership between SSMU and L’Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant (UTILE) to create an affordable student housing development with units at costs 15 to 30 per cent lower than market rates. The Affordable Student Housing Plan as a whole represents SSMU’s efforts to advocate for its constituents who, according to a 2019 report by UTILE, pay the highest rent amongst students on the island of Montreal. 

“[The project] fits into our constant combat against landlords and the exploitation of a vulnerable student population,” Delouvrier said. 

After a two-year search, UTILE has landed on a potential site for the project. The plot at 1635 Saint Laurent Boulevard––a 17 minute walk from campus––would cost around $7.6 million, with current zoning laws allowing buildings erected on the property to reach a maximum of 15 metres, or five storeys high. These restrictions would allow for the creation of 115 rooms, rather than the 200 to 300 originally agreed upon. Delouvrier said there was potential to submit a special building, renovation, and occupancy project request to the borough, which could allow for the creation of an extra 75 rooms. Otherwise, UTILE would look for another site to create a second building, allowing them to fulfill the agreed upon room numbers. 

Should the request not be submitted, or not be granted, UTILE estimates that construction would finish by the end of 2024. If the request for modification is submitted and accepted, construction would extend to the end of summer 2025. 

Delouvrier explained that the project would be similar in design to Concordia’s Woodnote housing cooperative. 

“[The project is] aimed at maximizing the space and maximizing the amount of initiatives we can put in place to benefit the students and foster a community environment not only between McGill students, but really between McGill students and this part of downtown Montreal,” Delouvrier said. 

While the presentation was part of the BoD’s public session, Delouvrier noted that the motion to approve the purchase of the building would be voted on as part of the confidential session, which lasted over four hours. The results of this vote have not yet been released. 

Moment of the meeting:

Legislative Council representative Yara Coussa proposed a motion to provide Divest McGill with a $500 stipend to help cover costs related to food and hygiene during the group’s ongoing occupation of the Arts building. During the surrounding debate, several directors questioned whether the BoD was the most appropriate venue for a “political” motion. Emphasizing the urgency of the motion, Coussa argued that it was an appropriate matter for BoD to discuss given the SSMU’s mandate to support Divest McGill. The motion passed with only VP Student Life Karla Heisele Cubilla and Council representative Wan in opposition.

Soundbite: 

“The training materials and presentations that we give to new employees like casual staff and full time staff need to be a lot more comprehensive and touch on a variety of topics, including your avenues for making complaints and […] the little details that people really don’t understand until they’re in an urgent situation where they need to understand them. Because you shouldn’t work here for two years and not know how your accrued vacation works.” 

  • VP University Affairs Claire Downie during a discussion regarding the potential for SSMU to organize trainings to help employees know their rights.
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