University District draft report released

University District

Reflections born from University District Summit in February

Mayor of Waterloo Dave Jaworsky (left) and Municipal Affairs Commissioner Francis Campbell (right) on Feb 11 at the Summit.

In the wake of the AMS’ inaugural University District Summit in February, a first draft report detailing the findings, identifying problems and proposing solutions was released on March 31. 

The report was compiled by Commissioner of Municipal Affairs Francis Campbell, with an open request for feedback. The response period on the questions posed about current student living conditions was approximately two months.

The report received 509 responses, with  87 per cent students, three per cent landlords and 10 per cent residents. For students living in the district, 43 per cent presented a negative or somewhat negative view of University District housing, with  68 per cent satisfied with interior housing quality. 

Seventy per cent of students say they’ve signed leases with responsive and approachable landlords, while 46 per cent believe that their landlords offset costs onto their tenants. 

Fifty-nine per cent of student respondents say they are knowledgeable — or at least minimally aware — of their tenants’ rights, and overall, 81 per cent of students report positive off campus living experiences. 

Eighty-six per cent of landlords reported satisfactory quality of care for their rental properties, with 87 per cent happy with their tenants’ behaviour overall. An average rental cost is also disclosed, with most landlords charging between $500 to $750 per month, utilities not included. 

Sixty-seven per cent of landlords feel knowledgeable of their rights and responsibilities, with a sizeable 93 per cent overall confirming a positive landlording experience. 

Residents of Kingston, on the other hand, seem the most dissatisfied with the current housing and neighbourhood situation in the district. Of the resident respondents, 38 per cent describe their neighbourhood as an even mix of students and non-student residents. 

The biggest problem for most residents seems to be the noise level and cleanliness within their areas, and in total, approximately 55 per cent of residents who responded communicate satisfaction with the friendliness and comfortability of students living in the neighbourhood. 

On the issue of Community Relationships, the primary problem reported was a disconnect between students in mixed neighbourhoods and their Kingston resident counterparts. The Summit revealed a perceived lack of interaction, communication and respect on both sides.

The report lists several suggestions to solve these neighbourhood relationship problems, encouraging things like inclusion of Kingstonians in first year residence talks and Orientation Week events. A “Living in the University District” guide produced by the AMS was also mentioned, that would contain all pertinent information about tenants’ rights and responsibilities. 

Another significant topic is that of accountability. Residents reported a perception that the school fails to take responsibility for the actions of students in the district and instead choose to actively distance themselves. For students, aggravation largely stems from absentee landlords, which many of student respondents see as taking advantage of first-time renters. 

Proposed remedies for the accountability problem include the school and City collaborating to invest in education of students on their rights and responsibilities as tenants, as well promoting an off-campus response program, facilitated through the Non-Academic Discipline system. 

Also mentioned is the possibility of the city introducing nuisance by-laws, dependent on the feasibility of such legislation, alongside a suggestion to provide students with garbage bag-tags for use during periods of substantial garbage yield. The report details the potential for a Landlord Certification Program. The City of Kingston is also looking into the introduction of a landlord rental license. 

The final two areas of discussion at the summit were that of Quality of Life in the district, and of Development. Primary areas requiring change include the disparity between student housing cost and quality, and ‘monster homes’. 

A lack of accessible transit to campus for students north of Princess St. was identified as an obstacle in students branching out to homes and areas beyond the designated borders of the University District. 

“The response to the report has been extremely positive so far,” Campbell told The Journal after the report was released, “though we haven’t received many corrections or suggestions yet. Participants have until April 12th to send in their ideas, and following that we’ll create a final draft.” 

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