City Council continues housing by-law debate

On Monday Apr. 11, the City of Waterloo held a council meeting discussing the updated rental housing licensing program and city by-law.

According to the City’s official website, it explains the bylaw as follows: “The City of Waterloo has been investigating a program to license the business of renting residential units for the purposes of protecting the health, safety and welfare of residents in low-rise residential rental units as well as to minimize the impacts of property standards, lot maintenance and scale of rental units on residential neighbourhoods.”

However, according to paralegal Gail Kalaba, this is not simply the case.

“Certain homeowners don’t want to rent to students,” Kalaba said. “In their first few years at university, students want to live with a large group of their friends, especially frosh students. So they host parties, they make noise. Some homeowners are complaining about this, so the new by-law is trying to be put into effect.”

In essence, the new by-law states that homeowners will not be able to rent out more than three bedrooms per house. Therefore, any student housing with more than that is either charged, or cannot be used. This does not include apartments or high-rises.

“They are considering adding a grandfathering clause,” Kalaba added. “Where houses that are already renting more than three rooms can continue to do so. But they’re also adding new costs to the homeowners, like making them take criminal record checks every year.”

The by-law appears to be limiting the number of rooms to rent for the health, safety and wellbeing of the students as well as the community, but it is more than that. The by-law, in effect, is a way to reduce student housing.

“If this by-law were passed,” Kalaba stated. “That would mean bad news for realtors as well.”

Bill Keay of Remax Realty spoke up at the meeting and said that he has loved selling houses in Kitchener and Waterloo for his business.

“KW is ranked number one in Ontario and number two in Canada, second only to Calgary for city housing. If this bill is passed, it would have terrible effects on the housing economy. People won’t want to rent in these areas due to the bedroom limit and the fees don’t exactly draw in home owners. It would be a shame if this bill were passed,” said Keay.

Representatives from the Federation of Students (Feds) at the University of Waterloo (UW), as well as the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union, took the podium on Monday to address the concerns of the students.

“Students are generally pleased with the bylaw but they have two main concerns,” Nick Soave, the representative from UW’s Feds stated. “Their first and biggest concern is affordability. They want to be assured that this new law will dramatically increase their rent. As unit prices increase, their options will be limited and student funds are already strained.”

“Their second issue,” Soave continued. “Is that they want the bylaw to be explained more clearly; they don’t believe it has been communicated well, and they want to be sure of what exactly is going to be passed.”

A final decision on the bylaw was not made on Monday night. On May 9, city council will hear delegations on the issue and consider approving the revised bylaw. The full report, along with an FAQ, can be viewed on