VIDEO: Student Housing Project Leads to Larger Council Debate
A proposed student housing project in Sandwich Town has sparked a much larger at Windsor council.
Despite community pushback and a petition with nearly 250 signatures, council has approved a three unit townhouse complex for 15 to 16 students at 3112 Wyandotte St. W., a primarily residential neighbourhood.
Chris Siefker lives next to the development and says council just didn't listen to the concerns of its residents.
"The whole community including students, including other landlords all have the same concerns. Unfortunately this is a train that keeps moving and it will just run us all over. When you have 85% of the community saying no and we have city council who turns around and ignores the actual will of the people that live there, they're moving forward for what reason?"
He says a large townhouse has no place in the neighbourhood.
"Our concerns were that it didn't fit in the community. What is being built is quite dominate in our neighbourhood and we didn't want to have it detract from the actual community and scare away any other residents that are living there. We want to try to keep the neighbourhood clean and away from deterrents that would stop it from being well received in our neighbourhood."
Siefker says he's worried this could open up the door for more of the same.
"What we're afraid of is that you change a community too fast, the community can't absorb it and then we end up with a whole bunch of other landlords who actually don't care about our community. What happens is it just tears it apart. All the residents leave, then you're stuck with streets that get destroyed. You look at the west end, you look around the university, over the last 15 years many streets have been completely ruined."
Councillor Fabio Costante represents the Sandwich Town area and says there's currently no policy in place governing student housing and he'd like to see that changed.
"In our neighbourhood in the west end, this type of development has been going on for decades. It's seen widely by a lot of permanent residents as somewhat of a cancer because the moment you approve one it's much easier to approve a second, third and fourth making the quality of life difficult for a lot of residents."
Windsor city councillor Fabio Costante on May 6, 2019 (Photo by AM800's Zander Broeckel)
He says large student housing complexes shouldn't be encroaching on residential neighbourhoods.
"It puts pressure on parking. It puts pressure on dirty yards and garbage clean up. So what we're seeing a lot in our neighbourhoods are landlords that aren't playing by the rules that are stuffing 10 students in a bungalow ranch illegally and without some form of enforcement or concentrated strategy, that's going to continue."
Costante says student housing is a must, but there's got to be a better way.
"I think west enders are resilient. I think living in harmony with tenants, with student tenants is a thing that's common. I think there just needs to be a balanced approach and I think that that balance hasn't existed in a lot of neighbourhoods in the west end."
Costante has asked city administration to put together a report on affordable housing specific to students and ways the current bylaws can be improved.
He believes the University of Windsor and St. Clair College should be playing a bigger role in off campus student housing as well.