Protecting Students and Homeowners From Greedy Out-Of-Towners
- "Absentee landlords who "herd students like cattle" into overcrowded, substandard and often unsafe housing are causing a rapid deterioration in neighbourhoods surrounding the University of Windsor, says Coun. Ron Jones.
Reacting to neighbourhood concerns about unkempt properties, trash, fire hazards and declining property values, the Ward 2 councillor said university administrators and city hall officials must sit down with the residents to find solutions.
"We've got kids living in cellars and attics being gouged $300 to rent places not fit to live in," Jones said. "Over the last four or five years we've had a proliferation of really bad landlords."
He added that, while the vast majority of people renting to students in the area do take responsibility for the upkeep of their buildings, dozens of other property owners are absentee landlords from out of town who have let rooming houses deteriorate through neglect.
"This has been a very big concern of mine," said Jones, a retired firefighter. "As a firefighter, I spent 25 years at the College station and I've seen that neighbourhood change.... Safety of the students is first and foremost in my mind and overcrowding is an issue."
As a resident in the neighbourhood himself, Jones added, "I don't like being awakened at four or five in the morning by people partying on their front lawn."
Something is up when Administration schedules a stakeholders meeting at 10AM when many people are working or in school and then says:
- "If this date does not accommodate your schedule, please inform me at your earliest convenience so that Administration can schedule a one on one meeting at a later date.
Furthermore, written submissions are also encouraged in the event that a stakeholder is unable to attend."
Why meet at a convenient time? Divide and conquer, "one on one." No separate landlords meeting to bring them up to speed or to understand their concerns. Let them write a letter that can be ignored or meet "at a later date" whenever that is.
The performance by the Ward 2 Councillors with respect to the Town & Gown matter at Council was disgraceful as far as I was concerned. Their strong opposition to a simple request for a deferral proved to me that there is more involved in this matter than meets the eye. Why give the landlords a chance to gain information and perhaps also to organize?
Councillor Jones pointed out that the Town & Gown committee had been around for years while Council Postma warned that action had to be taken before May of next year before the students left. In fact, what they were pointing out was their own inadequacy in accomplishing anything significant with respect to whatever the problem is.
Fortunately for them, there was no time to ask if there really is a problem since, according to the Administration Report presented to the Licensing Commission, everything is fine. All that will be created is a gigantic and expensive bureaucracy through a licensing regime or, in my opinion, the setup of a one-year committee as Administration was proposing.
Whether landlords want to believe it or not, the object of the exercise is not to ensure that there is no garbage or mattresses left by students on the roadway when the school term ends. It is to force out tenants from their homes and move them to a new student housing area, probably in the downtown area to “revitalize” it. Wasn’t that how the Cleary deal with the College was sold to us? Have you noticed a big change there?
A considerable number of landlords asked for the matter to be deferred 30 days so that they could speak with Administration about something that few of them knew very much about. Obviously, a number of other stakeholders had been contacted but not the landlords.
Supposedly, representatives of the University and St. Clair College were to be consulted after the proposed committee was set up. It is too bad that no one was able to ask the question whether the schools had already been contacted and whether their representatives had already been chosen. It would have been very interesting to hear the Administration answer to that question.
Of course, some people do not want to believe that this is an exercise by Government to take away their property rights effectively without compensation. Why would a City Government want to hurt them by forcing students to go into some new accommodation that a developer would build? That does not seem fair does it.
Of course the answer is a trade-off. This is not just a Ward 2 issue but can spread to different parts of the City as the schools are expanding and seemingly are going to be setting up different campuses around the City.
If you are a Councillor and you are being inundated with complaints by single family home owners about student housing in your area what are you to do? Which side do you pick? If you make a decision to support the homeowners, because they have more votes, then all that you have done is set up an opposition by individuals who want to protect their investment. They have money because they own one or more homes that they rent out. That could mean defeat in the next election if they and their occupants joined together to beat you.
Instead of dealing with the problem head on, because that it is too dangerous, then follow the model in Oshawa and set up a Committee to deal with it in the way that they are. Do not tell anybody about it but ram it through, all in a period of one year so it is done quickly.
Oh this is a lot bigger issue than just the University. Someone wants to act proactively because of this story:
- “College pitches $25M project in core; Strasser seeks Ontario funding
May 9, 2008
St. Clair College president John Strasser has pitched to the province a $25-million applied health sciences centre, possibly for downtown…
Strasser gave Pupatello a 20-page proposal that was drafted two years ago when the college hired an architect to sketch drawings of the 112,000-square-foot building…
The building could be located on campus, but Strasser suggested it could also go downtown, if the city provided land.
One possibility is the city's municipal parking lots behind the Art Gallery of Windsor, expropriated and consolidated two decades ago for an arena project that's now being built off Lauzon Road. Strasser showed the drawings to Mayor
Eddie Francis earlier this week…
Strasser said he has 1,000 nursing, dental assistants, massage therapy, paramedic and pharmacy students he could move downtown today, and that number would grow by 200 as the college starts more health science-related programs in the next couple of years…
The proposal is similar in scope to Francis's idea last year to have the University of Windsor put its new engineering building downtown. But the St. Clair building is simpler, cheaper and appears to have less resistance.”
Notice that there was nothing in the proposal about student housing. There would be 1,200 students many of whom might need accommodation close to the College downtown. What about them moving into the West End in addition to the University of Windsor students who live there? Oh my goodness, the area would be overrun with students. What to do? What to do?
Lo and behold, only two months later we see the following which offers a perfect location and provides the focus for the canal project:
- “Canal plan floated for Western Super Anchor; 'Opportunities are dynamic'; Windsor Star 07-29-2008
Mayor Eddie Francis will today unveil an ambitious marina, canal and boardwalk concept for the Western Super Anchor properties he believes can finally help transform the downtown dead zone…
The 40-foot-deep basin would be shadowed by a combined condo and retail development…
"Now that the casino (expansion) is open people have been saying 'What can we do to spur people and attract them to the city?'" Francis said. "This provides a sense of community, identity and mixed use we have desired for the Western Super Anchor."
"It all translates into economic benefits," the mayor said. "The time for this is right.”
Sure, how do you “spur” people to move there? Simple, you force them to do so at the expense of those big, bad, greedy, exploiting, out of town landlords.
Fine, you still do not believe me. I can understand that. You cannot believe that a City Government would force people to live in a certain area even if it means causing major financial problems to investors in their city who also happen to be taxpayers in their city. It is virtually expropriation without compensation.
Just think this through also if you are or know someone who is a single family home owner in the West End as an example. Assume that the students are all chased out and even assume that the owners of the home convert them at some cost into single-family dwellings. How are the owners going to get rid of them in a dismal real estate market that Windsor has especially since we have the highest unemployment rate in Canada with risks now to the Chrysler plant?
Who would buy the homes since financing may be very difficult? How would the owners continue to pay on the mortgage if they had no tenants? What would happen to the homes if the owners could not afford to keep them up?
I would think that what we would see would be a number of homes foreclosed and then boarded up throughout the entire West End of the City which might make the West End look more and more like Sandwich with all of its vacancies.
Single family owners might be a bit more careful what they might wish for because there could be other consequences that they have not considered if student housing does not actually take place downtown but is built instead in their area too.
More Blogmeister scare stories? Cannot happen here? Maybe not. But here is what happened in Oshawa. My sources tell me that it may get even worse for landlords in Oshawa soon:
- “Student housing battle: part II
OSHAWA -- Homeowners near the Durham College and UOIT campus have succeeded in lessening the number of students who will be able to rent homes in the neighbourhood and are now turning their attention to the next phase of the battle -- a proposed student apartment building.
Days after council passed a controversial bylaw requiring landlords renting homes near campus to obtain licences and limit the number of bedrooms per house, residents are fighting a large apartment development planned for Simcoe Street North and Niagara Drive.
The 183-unit building proposed by Dundurn Edge Developments Inc., would include 800 bedrooms in two-, four- and five-bedroom units, as well as 217 parking spaces and a possible restaurant/pub.
A flyer circulated to area homes this week by "concerned Niagara citizens" says it would cram too many students into one area and plague surrounding neighbourhoods with noise, traffic and parking problems.
"Do you want this in your neighbourhood?" the leaflet asks.
Many residents don't.
Julie Nichols, a mother of four young children, said she worries about their safety if overflow parking from the apartments creeps onto the quiet street where her family has lived for four years.
"Right now we already have some issues with parking and garbage on our street," she said. "I don't want it to get worse. I want my kids to be able to play out front. I just want to raise my kids in a healthy environment."
Also concerned is Erindale Crescent resident Bill Jenkins, who says the proposed building will be an eyesore and worries 800 students will stress his neighbourhood, especially because the most direct access to the campus is through his subdivision.
"I have nothing against the students, but I think this will have a negative impact on the neighbourhood," he said. "We moved here because it was advertised as a quiet family neighbourhood."
Carlo Di Gioacchino, vice-president of business development for Dundurn, is surprised by the reaction from residents.
"They want the students out of the subdivisions, but they don't want them in apartments either?" he asked.”
More work for lawyers in Windsor by the time this is done. Preparing artistic drawings for City visions and legal work are the only growth industries in this City now.