In the near future, students will likely encounter a much more regulated environment when searching for student rental properties.
On Sept. 18, a report proposing a new by-law will be presented to the Planning Committee at City Hall. The proposal seeks to address issues in regulating rental units across the city, and is believed to include a licensing program for all rental units (excluding those in apartment buildings) in the City of Hamilton.
The proposed by-law would begin to be drafted following the Planning Committee meeting and would most likely take shape by the end of November.
Discussion of regulating rental units has been ongoing. The current proposal looks to regulate rental units under the provincial Municipal Act. The intention of the licensing program is to ensure uniform standards for all rental properties across the city.
Rental licensing programs in other municipalities such as the City of Oshawa have sought to monitor property maintenance and ensure proper documentation and insurance.
Student rentals are not the sole target of this proposed by-law but the Westdale Ainsley-Wood and Mohawk-Buchanan-Bonnington-Southam neighbourhoods were specifically identified in earlier planning discussions in 2008.
Both neighbourhoods cater to student populations and experience an influx in residency as a result of the short-term nature of student leases.
Because the by-law itself has yet to be drafted, there have been concerns that another provision may be included which would seek to limit the number of bedrooms in a dwelling unit.
The City of London is the only municipality in Ontario to have limited number of bedrooms to five per dwelling.
Because this type of inclusion falls under a different provincial act, the Planning Act, Councilor Brian McHattie believes that a limitation on number of bedrooms would be discussed under zoning or as a separate by-law.
“The focus is safe housing. We have unsafe and unpalatable housing across the city,” said McHattie.
MSU VP Education Huzaifa Saeed reiterated the positive intent of the proposed by-law and the benefits to students.
“From one angle … this is a good deal for students. This would avoid horror stories with absentee landlords,” said Saeed.
Saeed raised another important question “From an economic standpoint…what would this do for affordability of [rental] housing? That depends on the licensing fee.”
However, he also noted that it is difficult to fully comment on how this by-law would affect availability of rental property to students until the Sept. 18 meeting.
Both Councilor McHattie and Saeed stated that the MSU would be and has been a part of the consultation process in the discussion regarding regulating rental units.
A more concrete plan of action will be developed by the MSU following the report to the Planning Committee.
Until the by-law is officially before City Council it remains unknown how deeply this will affect students. While the goal is higher quality student housing, potential repercussions remain a latent issue.