The streets of downtown Kingston Ont., are once again bustling with students, teachers, and staff of Queen’s University and St. Lawrence College as the Fall semester approaches.
The extra 30-thousand students and faculty give the local economy a boost, but the community’s supportive housing organization see things differently.
On Aug. 28, Home Base Housing accused the school’s students of driving many local renters out of the market, and in some cases, onto the streets.
“Low-income residents are getting the short end of the stick in terms of the cost of rental housing and quality of life because of the success of Queen’s and the college,” said Tom Greening, executive director for Home Base Housing.
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Greening and Pierre Klein, the manager of special projects for Home Base Housing, made a presentation to the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing, urging them to hold the two schools accountable for their social responsibilities in the community.
“Queen’s University and St. Lawrence College should not be able to increase their programming until they build affordable housing on campus or near campus,” said Klein.
Documents from the presentation say that Queen’s University has increased in students by 15 per cent over 10 years, and that, in 2009, there were 22,351 enrolled, and that number grew last year to 25,779.
“This growth alone has had the impact of requiring the consumption of 3,428 beds or an equivalent of 857 four-bedroom homes or 1,714 two-bedroom apartments over the last ten years,” said Klein.
In the report it reads in part, the working poor, singles and families can’t compete with the students who are paying $700-$1,150 per bedroom
Global News attempted to contact Queen’s University, but they have yet to comment.
St. Lawrence College, president and CEO Glenn Vollebregt responded: “St. Lawrence College takes its community responsibilities seriously and regrets that we were not given an opportunity to clarify information contained in Home Base Housing’s report to the Mayor’s Task Force on housing. We would welcome the opportunity to participate as a contributing member of the Mayor’s task force.”
As for the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing, co-chair and current Coun. Mary Rita Holland acknowledged that Kingston has a severe housing problem.
“We have been doing all the data gathering, and as a team, we are doing a deliberating session, and we hope to come up with some recommendations and common ground that we can provide to members of public and council,” said Holland.
When asked why should these institutions build additional housing when private developers are building student accommodations, and landlords in the downtown core can increase the rent because of student demand, Home Base Housing, said, “they have a social responsibility, and are ignoring it.”
Greening and Klein outline a few options that the City of Kingston should act on, such as placing a two-year interim control bylaw freezing any development and building permits on property owned and controlled by Queen’s and St.Lawrence until completion of a Student Housing Study on the impacts of off-campus housing with a view to creating housing options within their campuses.
The City of Kingston should ensure that any redevelopment of the Kingston Collegiate and
Vocational Institute (KCVI) school site be only repurposed for student housing.
Change the Official Plan to require the building/development of 20% permanently
affordable housing units in all developments.
Greening tells Global News that the organization is working with all levels of government to address the lack of housing in Kingston, but says its time for the post-secondary institutions to step up.
“We will be at city council on Tuesday night, and we hope council and the mayor understand the issue that we have on our hands because Kingston has a housing crisis,” said Greening.