As housing starts are down 54% year-on-year, Cadillac Fairview begins construction of a 500-unit rental tower in the Quad Windsor subdivision near the Bell Center in the southwest of downtown from Montreal.

To give an idea of ​​the likely duration of the current housing crisis, the construction of the 35-storey tower will stretch over almost three years and new housing will only be available in early 2026.

“We have a long-term approach,” answers Brian Salpeter, Senior Vice President of Eastern Canada Development for Cadillac Fairview, when asked what convinced Cadillac to go ahead with the project despite rising construction and financing costs.

“We’ve had our site for quite a while,” he continues. It is important to continue to invest in our communities, including Montreal, especially downtown. This is great news for the city center to continue to bring people back to work and live there.

“There is a housing shortage. It is important to continue to add to the housing stock because there is always a demand. »

Given that the Cadillac Fairview construction site is a rare residential tower to emerge from the ground in the city center in 2023, it becomes difficult under the circumstances to witness a substantial increase in housing starts before probably at least four years, in the central areas in particular.

The building, worth more than $300 million, will be erected in the northwest part of the quadrilateral formed by Saint-Antoine Ouest, Peel, Saint-Jacques Ouest and Jean-D’Estrées streets.

This is the first phase of the development of the quadrilateral, which can accommodate up to three buildings in total, of which at least one other will be for residential purposes (approximately 800 dwellings).

“As you know, the site south of Saint-Jacques, just across from ETS [École de technologie supérieure], still belongs to us. We are looking to continue the densification of the city center with other residential towers. We have the potential to add over 1,500 homes to this site,” says Salpeter.

As for phase 1, the future tower will rest on an 11-storey basilica. The building was designed by the architectural firms NEUF and Zeidler. Reliance was retained as the general contractor.

Rents will be determined based on current 2026 prices, Salpeter said. There is no social housing component because the authorizations were obtained before the entry into force of the Regulation for a mixed metropolis (also called 20-20-20).

A commercial space of approximately 850 square meters is planned to house a grocery store combined with a café or a restaurant.

Institute a diligent process of mediation, both affordable and effective, in the event of a dispute relating to the density of residential projects; donating publicly owned land to non-profit organizations for free to build affordable housing; authorize vertical mixed-use projects to reduce costs: these are the solutions proposed by the head of commercial real estate financing at the National Bank (BN) to increase the supply of housing in the territory.

“To promote density around public transport hubs, such as the REM or the metro, the provincial government could intervene on occasion for projects that are at an impasse following a dispute between the cities and the developers,” says René Demers, Senior Vice-President, Business and Private Management – ​​Real Estate, BN.

“There should be an escalation and appeal process between developers and cities. You have to have something structured to properly frame this process over time. »

As for the idea of ​​land transfer, it aims to counteract the exorbitant increase in the value of land which affects the cost of new housing and which ends up making housing unaffordable for ordinary mortals.

“Why not make this land available to housing co-ops to provide affordable housing for Canadian families with sustainability? asks Demers.

Instead of an outright cession, the financier imagines the government granting leasehold to a cooperative, with the government retaining ownership of the land.

The third idea relates to vertical projects. “We have difficulty integrating mixed uses on the same property in vertical development. »

By mixed use, he cites a library, a CHSLD, a school, social housing, etc.

“Currently, we are building a beautiful library without thinking of adding four or five floors of affordable or social housing,” he laments. It would reduce the cost of current projects because if we are able to do three projects vertically, it is cheaper than doing three projects with three foundations on three separate lots. »

A banker with 30 years of experience, Mr. Demers has been responsible for commercial real estate financing in Canada for National Bank for 11 years. With his team, he manages approximately 25 billion in construction loans and long-term mortgage financing. He proposes to meet the Minister responsible for Housing, France-Élaine Duranceau, to present his ideas and potential solutions.