Oshawa proposes license bylaw

Student Association President says it will drive students far from campus

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

To combat ongoing town-and-gown tension in Oshawa, the city has proposed a new bylaw that could have a negative impact on student rentals, according to a student association president.

The potential bylaw, to be debated on Jan. 16, would limit the number of occupants in a house to four and add a $250 per house licensing fee.

“It’s not even a blanket bylaw, [it’s] just around the school,” Fraser McArthur, president of the Student Association at Durham College, University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Trent College in Oshawa, said.

McArthur said the average occupancy of a house in the area is six students. According to Mayor of Oshawa John Gray, this can be up to eight or nine students " a number he said is “not realistic.”

“Typically, the non-homeowner homes tend to have more problems,” Gray said. The new bylaw is a result of numerous complaints about said homes, such as property standards issues and bylaw infractions.

It follows controversial town-and-gown conflict in the city last September, where some students felt police raids throughout the month were targeting student housing.

Gray acknowledged the search warrant process used in the “high-profile crackdown” made some students feel their personal space had been violated.

“But we want to make certain everyone can enjoy the neighbourhood and we won’t pick and choose.”

Gray stressed the city’s support for the university and its students.

“We have a lot of great students, but there’s always a few " the party-hardy types " who are too rambunctious on a Friday or Saturday night,” he said.

“It’s unacceptable behavior for a family neighbourhood. We were all young once, but we have to remember there are other people impacted.”

McArthur said the bylaw is not welcoming towards students and will drive them towards more expensive housing farther from campus.

To Gray, the $250 fee is modest, and allows council to bring a property into compliance more quickly through the licensing regime.

Although the Durham/UOIT student council is in support of the bylaw’s safety component, McArthur said the next step in challenging the bylaw’s other elements is to garner student support for a strong presence at the upcoming town meeting.

Alex Stoianov, a second-year Western science student, agreed the bylaw seems unfair to students.

“If there’s only four students in a house, they will pay more rent than if there were six,” she noted.

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