Wed. Dec 6th, 2023

The construction of college student housing is hampered by an article of law which partially excludes CEGEPs from a tax holiday from which universities nevertheless benefit.

Student housing: Cégeps want inequity to end

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The Student Housing Implementation Work Unit can develop projects, like this one, intended for university students, but it is more difficult for him to do it for CEGEP students.

  • Fannie Bussières McNicoll (View profile)Fannie Bussières McNicoll

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For several years, the Fédération des cégeps has denounced what it considers to be an “injustice” and an “incongruity”.

The Municipal Taxation Act provides an exemption from property taxes for any construction of university student housing.

However, it is a completely different story for the college environment. This exemption is only offered if the student residence is the property of the CEGEP and if the land on which it is built also belongs to it.

Result: the construction of college student residences finds itself slowed down since innovative projects with an alternative business model, involving for example non-profit organizations, cannot amortize these additional costs.

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Bernard Tremblay, president and CEO of the Fédération des cégeps

In the context of the current housing crisis, this is a modification that seems important and urgent to us so that we are able to develop new student residence projects.

A quote from Bernard Tremblay, president -director general of the Fédération des cégeps

The Federation of College Students of Quebec (FECQ) unreservedly supports the request of the Fédération des cégeps. She has also been promoting it herself for several years.

For us, the sooner it is changed, the better it will be for the student population, says its president, Laurence Mallette-Léonard. It's urgent! We want student housing as soon as possible! she adds, referring to increased needs in the current context of housing shortage.

She points out that many students have to move because their program of choice is not offered in an establishment in their region. Many of them face a shortage of affordable housing in several towns in the province.

This is also the case for foreign students, who often have difficulty accessing the regular rental market, in particular because they do not have a credit file.

We need housing dedicated to students to take them out of the regular rental market. We must leave large accommodation to families and ensure that there is more adequate and adapted accommodation for the student population, insists the president of the FECQ.

And to do this, adds Ms. Mallette-Léonard, it is essential that the government makes massive investments in student housing and facilitates the emergence of student cooperatives and residences managed by NPOs whose objective is to offer student housing. at a more affordable cost.

This is precisely the mandate that the Work Unit for the implementation of student housing (UTILE ), which is responsible for the construction of more than 1,000 affordable university student housing units, 500 of which are already inhabited by student tenants.

Property tax represents 10 to 15% of the operating expenses of a residential building, explains Laurent Levesque, general director and co-founder of UTILE. These additional costs really limit the possibility of organizations like ours providing student housing for CEGEP students.

He claims to have been contacted, in recent years, by numerous CEGEPs and numerous college towns wishing to introduce their model, without being able to move forward, and not without frustration. The current situation is hampering partnerships with CEGEPs. This limits innovation and we cannot meet the significant demand that there is in all regions of Quebec, deplores Mr. Levesque.

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Laurent Levesque, director and co-founder of the UTILE organization which is dedicated to developing and managing affordable student housing projects.

The low availability of housing in student towns in Quebec is currently a barrier to accessibility to postsecondary studies, and this is also true in the college network.

A quote from Laurent Levesque, general director and co-founder of UTILE

The CEO of the Fédération des cégeps, Bernard Tremblay, was encouraged by the openness demonstrated by the ministers of Housing, France-Élaine Duranceau, and Higher Education, Pascale Déry, on the subject of the tax holiday.

But he was disappointed and surprised to find that the change he requested was neither part of Housing Bill 31 nor Housing Bill 39 municipal taxation. This is a legislative correction which is minor. So, we don't understand why it's complicated to obtain, says Mr. Tremblay.

For him, these are two missed opportunities. It is still worrying to see that our request is not found in either bill.

The Parliamentary Commission on Land Planning will this week examine Bill 39, sponsored by the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Andrée Laforest. The Fédération des cégeps will submit a short memorandum defending the idea of ​​an addition to the legislative project. We say to ourselves that we must take advantage of this opportunity. We want to be sure not to fall between the cracks in the floor, says Bernard Tremblay.

We heard a clear political will to correct tax inequity current, indicates for his part Laurent Levesque. We have confidence, and we hope that it will be achieved soon.

Questioned about its intentions regarding the request from the Fédération des cégeps, Minister Laforest's office referred us to the Minister of Housing, since this file falls under her jurisdiction.

Minister Duranceau's press secretary simply responded that [their] teams are currently studying this memorandum and these recommendations [as part of the study of Bill 31].

In Minister Déry's office, we also preferred to redirect us to her colleagues responsible for Housing and Municipal Affairs files.

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