There has been a lot of discussion and debate at City Council over the last month about whether or not to impose an interim control bylaw (ICBL) in the neighbourhoods around Queen’s University and St. Lawrence College. There are real concerns in these areas of the city about conversions of family homes into expanded student housing, and an ICBL has been proposed as a way to prevent any further conversions for the near future.
However, an ICBL wouldn’t just stop the conversion of family homes into student housing developments, it would also block just about any other type of development in the area. In fact, over the last week I have heard concerns from residents, tradespeople, church groups and affordable housing agencies, all of whom would be prevented from proceeding with developments to their properties under an ICBL, even though their developments are unrelated to student housing.
That’s the big problem with an ICBL; there is no ability to target the specific types of development that are of concern to the neighbourhood, while at the same time allowing all the other positive types of development to continue. This creates enormous collateral damage and is, frankly, unfair to other residents and property owners in these parts of the city. I am convinced that there is a better way forward on this. We can find more targeted solutions that will unify our community rather than create divisions and tensions in the way an ICBL proposal has. I am very pleased that as a result of last night’s debate, Council has directed staff to explore other options, which will include looking at best practices from other cities with large post-secondary student populations.
I remain convinced that one of the best ways to protect family neighbourhoods in the downtown is to encourage and incentivize more apartment style housing in areas of the downtown that need redevelopment, such as the Williamsville corridor on Princess Street. At the end of the day, we will probably need a combination of different policies and partnerships, but we can get there. Our post-secondary students are an enormous asset to our community, and by working together we can ensure that families and students can co-exist and thrive together in our community.