City looking into new student rental bylaws

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St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik announced that City Council plans to implement new bylaws concerning student housing in the city and surrounding areas. This statement comes after a street party on Winterberry Boulevard, during Brock University`Homecoming weekend garnered a lot of attention and initiated many complaints from Thorold residents after 400-500 people crowded the street on the night of September 15. One Thorold resident who shared the video showed the crowd blocking the street and partying to loud music; the video also shows a police car arriving on the scene to shut the party down. The video went viral, getting shared more than 100,000 times, gaining the attention of news channels such as CKTB Radio and CHCH.

This isn’t the first time residents of the Niagara Region have spoken out in anger or frustration over student parties. A St. Patrick’s Day party on Jacobson Avenue earlier this year also gained similar attention from the city. Both the Jacobson party and the Winterberry party have reignited long-held feelings of frustration from neighbours regarding student parties. While re-initiated the discussion of what can be done to control student activities so as not to disrupt the neighbours or the communities’ reputations.

Residents of popular student party locations are frustrated with the noise, the blocked streets and other similar disturbances to their neighbourhoods. They are tired of the garbage laying around and the fear of damage to property or belongings. Additionally, being known as a student party hotspot doesn’t make a neighbourhood particularly desirable for potential home-buyers. Community disturbances such as student parties also reflect poorly on Brock as a school and as a community.

In searching for a solution, Sendzik is looking at how the city of Oshawa handled similar complaints regarding Durham College and University of Ontario Institute of Technology student residents in the neighbourhoods a few years back. Sendzik hopes to model solutions for St. Catharines after a bylaw which the City of Oshawa introduced in 2008. The bylaw would limit the number of bedrooms in a rental house near the schools to four. Additionally, landlords would pay a $250 license fee. Oshawa saw positive results after introducing the bylaw and Sendzik is hoping to introduce a similar bylaw for similar results in St. Catharines.

“I think, from the Oshawa experience, based on their success, we should be able to get a better handle on where the student housing is in our community and how we can better manage it,” Sendzik said in a interview with The St. Catharines Standard on Sept. 22. “This will have a very important role to play in managing the number of student houses in neighbourhoods and also who owns the student houses. So we’re going to be dealing with the landlords.”

Sendzik presented a motion to city council last Monday, who unanimously passed it. The motion directs city staff to draft a bylaw that will help crack down on student housing problems.

“The city’s coming and we’re going to come with a bylaw and we’re going to have some teeth to it,” Sendzik said at the meeting.

“[This is] long overdue. A lot of folks have been talking about it; not a lot has been done about it.”

The staff report and bylaw should be drafted by January for public consideration.

Until any permanent measures are taken, however, Brock and the Niagara Regional Police Department are working together to remind students how to be part of a community that isn’t comprised of only other students.

“A majority of them get it . . . Being respectful is an important part of being in a community.” Sendzik also reminded students of bylaws that are already in place: “You can’t party on the roof, we don’t tolerate having furniture in the front yards . . . and we also don’t tolerate people parking on their grass.”

Additionally, Brock is paying for extra police presence in popular student housing areas on weekends to help control potential disturbances. Sendzik also has plans for some precautionary safety measures in which the fire department will go through student housing to ensure fire alarms are operational and the residents are safe.

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