In a controversial move, the Thorold City Council voted on last Tuesday to pass a new bylaw which will affect realtors, landlords and individuals living in rental housing in the municipality. Thorold City Council was filled with individuals opposed to the proposed bylaw who made statements claiming the new bylaw will adversely affect them, their businesses, and the tenants who live in their properties. Their efforts made little effect, as the bylaw was passed and will come into effect in January of 2018.
At the council meeting, landlords and realtors shared their concerns, telling Council members that the effects of the licensing fees will ‘cripple business’ and will have trickle-down adverse effects on tenants. One landlord at the meeting spoke to how many tenants are individuals on disability, and would not be able to afford the rent increases that will be passed along from the licensing fee. Others stated that the proposed bylaw would not properly address the main issue of student social gatherings, and instead would negatively affect others.
The bylaw is intended to address complaints from Thorold residents in regards to issues with rental housing in the city, particularly housing for Brock University students. Many Thorold residents have aired complaints about students living in Thorold, often in regards to social gatherings. The most notable incident took place on Winterberry Boulevard in September, when residents filmed a party that was hosted by students that allegedly gathered in excess of 500 students. The video was circulated on social media and led to the creation of a Facebook page entitled ‘Thorold — A City Being Destroyed By Students’. The page has over seven-hundred likes online, and although it proclaims not to discriminate against any particular group, it has made inflammatory comments about Brock students and has encouraged residents to be active in municipal action against tenants. Controversy was also created on October 23 when Brock students were involved in a stabbing in a Thorold neighbourhood.
Effective in January, the new bylaw will introduce a $250 yearly licensing charge for owners of rental properties. However, the first year will cost landlords $500. The bylaw will also institute the creation of two bylaw officer positions to enforce existing regulation and collect revenue via fines. The 2018 Thorold budget will allocate funds in excess of $150,000 for the creation of these positions. There will be a one-time 60 day ‘grace period’ for landlords and realtors to submit proper licensing applications in accordance to municipal and provincial bylaws.
In response to the controversy surrounding the bylaw, the Thorold City Council stood by their decision that the bylaw was the right choice to address residents’ concerns. Councillor Fred Neale commented to The Brock Press that he believed that the licensing bylaw “should go through”. A Tuesday night’s meeting, Thorold solicitor Sara Premi made a statement to concerned attendees that the law had been “extensively reviewed” and would allow for proper and effective enforcement of regulations.
Thorold City Councillor Anthony Longo also made comments to The Brock Press in support of the by-law and hopes it would foster a better atmosphere between the Brock and Thorold communities.
“This by-law has been in the works at that City of Thorold for at least nine years. City staff has worked hard to ensure that the by-law, although not popular with all landlords, addresses the need for safe housing for all renters and to ensure that residential rental units in Thorold meet current building and fire code regulations,” Longo explained. “It is my hope that Brock University and BUSU will promote and aid in educating Brock students and their parents when considering rental accommodations, and to have them actively seek out licensed properties when making their housing choices.”
In a statement, Bradley Clarke, the Director of Student Life & Community Experience at Brock, made it clear that the university supports the implementation of the bylaw, and hopes for a similar system in the city of St. Catharines.
“The university supports the City of Thorold’s efforts to design and implement a regulatory program for rental properties,” Clarke stated. “We have a common interest in providing safe accommodations for Brock students who live off-campus. In the coming months, the university will promote the program to students and also to landlords who advertise with our off-campus living office.”
“It is our understanding that similar regulatory actions are being considered by the City of St. Catharines”, Clarke explained. “The two programs could be synchronized so that it is easier to educate students and landlords.”