Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Student housing

The “collective enterprise” UTILE (L’Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant) was established in 2013 “with the objective of developing a social economy student housing model specific to Quebec inspired by best practices in non-profit student housing around the world.”

In 2016, working with the the Chantier de l’économie sociale du Québec and the Concordia Student Union (CSU), UTILE established the Community Student Housing Fund (Fonds CLÉ) with a $2 million investment from Concordia—wait, let me just repeat that: with a $2 million investment from the university whose students were in need of housing. (Ahem.)

In 2020, the group opened its first student housing project, the Woodnote, located near Montréal’s lovely Parc LaFontaine. In 2021, it began construction of a second Montréal project, the Rose des vents, which is now tenanted.

And in 2023, UTILE is about to complete a third primarily student housing project, The Ardoise (in French, L’Ardoise, in Cape Breton, The Lordways), this one in Québec City.  As this is the project that was drawn to my attention this week by my source in Québec, I’ll give you a few more details about it.

Photos of the Ardoise student housing project in Quebec City including interior shots of units.

Source: UTILE

The Ardoise has 205 apartments, including 171 studios—104 for students and low-income students—29, 2-bedroom apartments; two 3-bedroom apartments; and two 4-bedroom apartments.

Studio apartments start at $606 per month and that rent includes high-speed internet and hot water but not electricity. The 4-bedroom apartments go for $1,578 per month, or $394.50 per tenant. Compare those to this rental I just plucked off the CBU off-campus rental database:

2 bedrooms available for female tenants to rent immediately.

There is 1 single bedroom available, and 1 shared bedroom for 2 tenants to rent.

Rent is $550/Month for the single bedroom, and $400/Month per tenant, for the shared bedroom. Tenants will be required to each pay a $200 damage deposit.

It’s cheaper in the Ardoise to get your own bedroom in a 4-bed apartment than to SHARE A ROOM in a house in Sydney.

Funding for the $36 million project, which will house over 250 students, came largely from the federal government, which pitched in $31 million. The Québec provincial government contributed $4.6 million and Québec City $200,000.

UTILE dates its origins to 2012, when “a group of graduates from several fields of study” expressed a desire to transform the remains of the Îlot Voyageur in Montreal into “a constructive affordable student housing project driven by the community.”

The Îlot Voyageur was an ill-fated (“poorly planned” according to Québec’s auditor general) building project that nearly bankrupted the Université du Québecà Montréal back in 2007. And while the desire to turn it into student housing was never realized, it did set in motion the chain of events that resulted in the formation of UTILE which, today, in addition to its three completed projects (or almost completed, the Ardoise is expected to be accepting tenants, on schedule, this fall) has four others in the works.

Which is to say, the organization was not an overnight success, but surely there is something to be learned from what it has accomplished? Universities are all about learning, aren’t they?



Speaking of student housing (and related issues), CTV’s investigative program W5 is coming to town to take a look at the situation with CBU’s international students.

Producer Kevin O’Keefe (a Sydney native) has invited students to a town hall to be held on Saturday, March 4 at 2:00 PM at the Holiday Inn in Sydney.

O’Keefe said, in a March 1 Facebook post, that he’s working on a documentary about international students and would like to hear the concerns of students at CBU. (He assured students worried about being identified that they would have the option of remaining anonymous.)

An invitation to a W5-hosted Town Hall in Sydney, NS, 4 March 2023

Source: Facebook

The difficulties facing international students clearly extend beyond Cape Breton: Matt Galloway of CBC’s The Current dedicated a segment to the problem this past Wednesday and Canadaland’s The Backbench covered the topic back in May 2022 in an episode entitled “Confessions of an International Student.”

The local coverage is going to be interesting.


Want ads

Port of Sydney logoPort of Sydney CEO Marlene Usher will be slinging her hook in April (a reference to the hooks used by dockers to move cargo in the Port of London back in the day, not the hooks that replace pirates’ hands, in case you’re wondering) and the Port is on the look-out for a new CEO:

The successful candidate should hold a Master’s degree or equivalent, with course work in engineering, planning, economics, business administration or marine management. Sector related certification would also be considered desirable. Marine transportation sector experience would be considered an advantage.

The successful candidate should also have “a demonstrated knowledge” of the following:

  • Public and/or private sector transportation operations.
  • Working with indigenous Communities and Organizations
  • Federal regulations governing marine transportation and port operations
  • Public and/or private sector finance, budgeting and economic development
  • Prior experience interacting with the media
  • Human Resource Management
  • Critical thinking, problem solving skills, integrity and emotional intelligence

The job posting does not mention compensation.

If you think you have the integrity and emotional intelligence to ensure “the Port and its mission, programs, and services are consistently represented in a tactful, candid, transparent and effective manner to all external stakeholders and interests,” you have until March 30 to get your application  in to:

Port of Sydney Development Corporation

The successful candidate should have a demonstrated knowledge of the following:

Attention: Chair of the Board

Good luck!


Also wanted

If Port CEO-ing isn’t your bag, how about being general dogsbody for an up-and-coming local investment fund that has $1.5 million to spend and isn’t afraid to spend it—just not on staff?

A year after it first appeared on my radar, the Cape Breton Capital Group is looking for what it is now calling a managing director but while the title has changed, the job sounds like the same one the group was calling “manager of operations and investment” this time last year, when it was being done by Holly Chisholm. Chisholm, according to her LinkedIn page, occupied the position from January to October 2022.

Logo of the Cape Breton Capital GroupThe successful candidate for the re-named post will be:

… passionate about the opportunity and enthusiastic about the work that lies ahead. This senior position works on behalf of the investors, to build and manage the pipeline of opportunities- evaluating and working with founders/entrepreneurs- while establishing a visible presence and strong brand within the community and larger ecosystem. Responsible for the day-to-day operations of the fund, as well as long-term organizational planning and execution, the Managing Director will be doing it all, from general administrative tasks to finding and building relationships with potential businesses and start-ups, investors, incubators, accelerators and everyone in between.

As I pointed out last year, this means the Cape Breton Capital Group has “a one-person front, middle and back-office—that is, one person handling marketing, investment analysis and admin support.”

If you feel you are the person for this job—a two-year position that pays $70,000 plus “profit sharing” and “commission”—send your resume along one of these days, there doesn’t seem to be a big rush, the ad says:

This opportunity will remain open until the position is filled, so please submit your application as soon as you are ready. We will be interviewing potential candidates on an ongoing basis, as applications are received.

You can apply through the Indeed website.

And now…it’s shovel time!

Until next week, spectators.