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Affordable housing project breaks ground in Côte-St-Luc

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Representatives of the Jewish community and government take part in the groundbreaking ceremony for Kehilla Montreal 1, in Côte-St-Luc, Que., on June 5. (Janice Arnold/The CJN)

A 68-unit apartment building for low- and moderate-income families and single people is being constructed in Côte-St-Luc, Que., in an effort to increase the amount of social housing in the Montreal suburb.

Ground was broken on June 5 for Kehilla Montreal 1 (KM1), a $15.8-million project that was made possible through a collaboration between the provincial and municipal governments, Federation CJA and private donors.

The 10-storey building, which is expected to open in the fall of 2019, is located immediately behind Caldwell Residences at 5789 Caldwell Ave.

Other than proximity, there is no connection between Caldwell, a 144-unit apartment building for low-income seniors, and KM1, except that both are non-profit organizations with ties to the Federation. Caldwell, the first of four such seniors’ residences, was built by Federation CJA in 1973.

It’s a convenient location, close to schools, municipal services and public transportation.
Eligibility for KM1, which will be named for its chief private contributors, Saryl and Stephen Gross, is determined by Quebec government criteria for social housing and will be awarded on a non-sectarian basis, said Kehilla Montreal Residential Programs president Jonathan Sigler. The application process should open soon, he said.

The units will range from one to three bedrooms. Half of them will be subsidized and reserved for those in the lowest income bracket. Their rent will be no more than one-quarter of their monthly income. The rest will be for tenants who can afford rent that is “slightly below market rate.”

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Kehilla (Hebrew for community) is a project that has been in the planning for five years by Federation CJA and the Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal. Kehilla Montreal Residential Programs is a registered charity that was established last year.

Sigler, a real estate developer, said that the community identified a pressing need for quality affordable housing, especially for families, noting that 16 per cent of Côte-St-Luc residents live below the poverty line.

Kehilla board member Francine Wiseman said that over 25,000 households are currently on the waiting list for social housing in the Montreal area.

“Now that we know what to do, now that we have the government on side, let’s work on No. 2, and I’ll be part of it,” said Stephen Gross.

Liberal MNA David Birnbaum said that KM1 will be “much more than a building; it will change lives … and solidify this wonderful community.”

He noted that 19 of the units will have three bedrooms, which is big enough for larger families, “a cohort often forgotten” in social housing.

Côte-St-Luc is a special place, and it’s a place where everyone can live. But we are bursting at the seams.
– Mayor Mitchell Brownstein

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein said his city is in need of housing at all price points. “Côte-St-Luc is a special place, and it’s a place where everyone can live. But we are bursting at the seams.”

Brownstein noted that the availability of seniors’ residences geared to the Jewish community, especially assisted living facilities, remains inadequate. “I hope someone takes over the Manoir Montefiore and does something, whether kosher or kosher style,” he said.

Montefiore, which was owned by Réseau Sélection, closed in 2016 and remains vacant, while the Castel Royal, which was sold by the Chartwell chain last year, is now a regular apartment building. Outside of Côte-St-Luc, Résidence Salomon on Décarie Boulevard, which was affiliated with the Sephardic community, was sold to a private enterprise a couple of years ago.

In total, KM1 received $6.2 million from the Quebec government, including $5.2 million through the Société d’habitation du Québec’s (SHQ) AccèsLogis program. The SHQ is also guaranteeing the mortgage on the building.

Côte-St-Luc is contributing nearly $1.3 million that is to be reimbursed by the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal.

Groupe CDH, a non-profit organization that’s concerned with community housing, is also a partner in the project.