Fears of Student Invasion in Kitchener Neighbourhood

  • 02/2/17
  • |          Kitchener

KITCHENER — Fears of a student invasion dominated a public meeting Tuesday about a new condo development near Conestoga College, even though the development isn’t aimed at students.

Teresa Martin says half the homes on Sydenham Street, where she lives, have been converted to student housing. “Within the next two years, I’m going to be in the only owner-occupied house on the street.”

The influx of students has led to a rash of conversions of single-family homes into student rentals of as many as eight bedrooms, and regular complaints about parking, unkempt yards, garbage and noise.

“I think we want to have some assurance from the city” that this isn’t going to happen in the new development, Martin said. “There’s a mismatch between what’s allowed and what’s happening,” she said, prompting applause from the 45 or so residents at the meeting.

Cook Homes Ltd. is asking for a zone change on its property between Pinnacle Drive and Doon Valley Drive to allow it to build 75 two-storey townhouses of two or three bedrooms each.

The site is next to a property where a plan to build a 172-bedroom student housing complex has met with vehement opposition.

Garett Stevenson, the city planner handling the condo proposal, repeatedly emphasized that this plan is for market-rate condominiums, not student housing.

But residents were clearly worried that even a development aimed at buyers who plan to live there would gradually get rented out to students.

One solution might be to include a prohibition in the zoning against lodging houses — where four or more unrelated people share living space, Stevenson said.

Many residents expressed skepticism about the city’s ability to do much to enforce such bans. Lower Doon already has a special zoning provision prohibiting duplexing and second units in any semi-detached house, yet residents know there are dozens of homes in the area that have been converted to student housing, renting out as many as eight or 10 bedrooms, including bedrooms in basements and in garages.

Any search on online classified sites such as Kijiji will turn up ads for eight- and 10-room rentals in Lower Doon, Martin said. But calls to bylaw enforcement seem to do little, she said.

A strictly worded condo declaration banning subletting and rentals to students seems to work at a condo development down the road at 350 Doon Valley Dr., said Mary Cunningham. “Everybody knows everybody else. If anybody tried to rent to students in our condo, the wrath of God would be on their head.”

The proposed development may be the best the community can hope for, said Daryl Howes-Jones, who said he has seen “tremendous degradation” in the neighbourhood over the past several years. It’s not realistic to expect a developer to put single-family homes on that site, he said, but the proposed condo project “is an excellent design” that could help to bring the area back from the brink.

“There’s already two condo complexes in the area that haven’t fallen apart” and become student boarding houses, he said.

People are invited to comment on the proposal by March 3 at www.kitchener.ca/en/insidecityhall/LandUsePlanningNews.asp

The proposal is in its early stages, Stevenson said, and there’s no date set for council to consider the zone change. Chris Pidgeon, a planner working for Cook Homes, said the developer would like to start construction as soon as possible, ideally this year or next year.

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