The divide

Housing disparities on either side of Barrie St.

The corner of Barrie and William Streets.
Image by: Chloe Sobel
The corner of Barrie and William Streets.

When crossing from one part of William St. to the other, over Barrie St. — where William becomes disconnected, rather than running in a straight line — it’s easy to see the stark external differences between houses in the University District and the houses outside.

Historically, the student housing area east of Barrie has been known as the “student ghetto”. Catherine Wright, the 2013-14 AMS municipal affairs commissioner, told the Journal last year that there’s little pressure for landlords to renovate their properties within the student housing area because of that name, which suggested low standards.

There’s been a lot of debate among students about whether the new “University District” label will stick, but the effort to rebrand the area saw the old street signs replaced. Nothing’s changed with house exteriors, though, and while the signs are new, the houses west of Barrie still look old.

The outside of a house doesn’t necessarily say much about the inside. Judy To, who lives inside the University District, said she doesn’t think the outside of a house affects the inside.

“I move every year and every year we had different houses that looked different on the outside but we still kept it clean at a certain standard,” To, Comm ’15, said.

“There are some really ugly houses on the outside, and on the inside it’s beautiful. And then you see the opposite, where there’s the new Varsity Properties, and the outside’s so nice and you go in and it’s like, ‘oh, you’re really messy and really dirty.’”

Natalie Kugler said part of the reason houses outside the district might be cleaner is because they’re removed from its social sphere.

“Yeah, their houses are cleaner, because they just throw less parties and there’s less damage that’s done,” Kugler, Comm ’15, said.

“I feel like Queen’s students don’t have a lot of respect for any of the properties here and everyone just kind of trashes it, like they’re paying for it and stuff. That’s why the ones outside of the ghetto, they are so much nicer, because they respect it throughout the years.”

Colby Sharma, who also lives in the district, agreed.

“Houses inside the University District are cheaper. They’re meant to be that way — you know, not as nice,” Sharma, ArtSci ’17, said.

Alexandra Valeri lives outside the University District and has never lived inside it.

“I was warned away from getting inside the university area because I

heard a lot of the houses were kind of crappy, like not well taken care of,” Valeri, ArtSci ’15, said.

“But some of the places here I hear they’re not that great, so I don’t know. That could just be what I’ve heard.”

She lives in an apartment building, and said the exterior is plain, but she’s decorated it nicely.

“If the outside of your house is nice, maybe you’re not as motivated to keep the inside nice, but on the same hand sometimes you have kind of a shabby outside and you’re like, ‘well, I’m going to make the inside really nice because I can actually do something about that.’”


Photo essay, Student Ghetto, University District

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