Kingston housing dilemma no fault of students

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The blame for Kingston’s housing crisis does not fall on the city’s student community.

Home Base Housing, a not-for-profit supportive housing organization in Kingston, recently blamed Queen’s University and St. Lawrence College students for the lack of available affordable housing in Kingston. A presentation to the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing suggested that student renters are driving low-income residents away from housing opportunities, holding the schools accountable.

It’s undeniable that Kingston has a housing problem. But contrary to the report from Home Base Housing, the post-secondary schools don’t have a responsibility—or even the necessary means—to solve the issue.

Queen’s purpose is as an educational institution. It’s not responsible for solving the issues facing the greater Kingston community. That’s the role of the municipal, provincial, and federal governments.

Lacking affordable housing is a problem to ultimately be solved by the municipal government in collaboration with the provincial and federal governments. Funding for public housing initiatives and protection for Kingston renters is the only way to effectively address the housing crisis.

Blaming the Kingston student population for a lack of housing fails to acknowledge the role private developers and landlords play to offer affordable accommodations. High demand for downtown housing allows landlords and developers to increase rent prices for students and permanent residents alike. 

In and around the University District, higher rent prices often don’t indicate better housing—just closer proximity to Queen’s. Regardless, it’s not students who establish the price of rent.

Municipal intervention in policy protecting renters from ever-increasing rent prices would go a long way toward combating the steep rent Home Base Housing addressed.

That said, affordable accommodations for upper-year students provided by Queen’s would be a welcome alternative to renting that might alleviate some housing competition in the University District. 

While Queen’s doesn’t have an obligation to solve the housing shortage, it’s undeniable that upper-year residences or affordable campus apartments would be valuable for students and would decrease the demand for off-campus student housing.

Home Base Housing does important work in the Kingston community, but the organization is misguided in placing the blame for a lack of affordable housing on students. 

It’s the municipal, provincial, and federal governments' failure to adequately address invest in public housing that continues to exacerbate the problem—not the student population. 

While Queen’s and St. Lawrence College have the ability to relieve some of the city’s mounting housing pressure, the solution for Kingston’s problem is ultimately the government’s responsibility.

—Journal Editorial Board

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