New ownership coming to student neighbourhood

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A major shakeup could be coming to a student neighbourhood just south of Wilfrid Laurier University.

Nine properties on Ezra Avenue, another one on Bricker Avenue and an additional property on Hickory Street are in the final stages of being sold by Studenthouses.ca, a real estate company that specializes in renting to students. The tenants of the residences, which are a combination of larger apartment buildings and houses converted into multi-unit dwellings, were informed in January that they would be getting a new landlord, however were not told who the new owner of the properties was.

The student residents also signed a document that will protect their lease from May of 2012 until April of 2013.

This past week, the tenants were notified that the Studenthouses.ca office located on Ezra would be shut down, with a new owner’s office opening at a different location.

Because the deal is still being finalized, the potential buyers are not certain. However, one party rumoured to be interested in the properties is land-strapped Wilfrid Laurier University.

According to WLU’s director of public affairs Kevin Crowley, the university routinely looks into purchasing land outside of the block bordered by Bricker, Albert Street, University Avenue and King Street it currently occupies, however it has no purchases to announce at this time.

Some local landlords, however, are not convinced.

“I’ve got it from two sources that Laurier bought of all Sean French’s property on Bricker for $60 million,” said Paul Ellingham, a landlord who owns multiple properties in Waterloo, who is also a chaplain at WLU. Sean French, whom Ellingham referred to, is the president of Studenthouses.ca.

Ellingham is concerned at what he thinks Laurier’s potential interest in this land signifies.

“The funding model from the province has changed dramatically, it’s shifting money that goes per student, more in favour of getting new buildings to universities that have land. Guess what Laurier’s short of? Land,” he said.

“I think the university has realized that it makes more money housing students than it does educating them.”

For the moment, the university could not comment on the matter and the sale has yet to be finalized.

“Nothing’s been finalized. And we’re always interested in properties, it’s not unusual for us to be interested in properties,” said Laurier’s vice president of finance Jim Butler. “Yes, we’re interested in that kind of stuff, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be that area.”

Despite multiple attempts, The Cord was unable to reach Studenthouses.ca for a comment.

The sale could close as soon as the end of this week.

–With files from Justin Smirlies

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