Northdale awaits the highest bidder
After 56 years in their Larch Street home, Jim and Ruth Facey have decided to sell their house. And a lot of their neighbours are doing the same.
In fact, 30 other homeowners in the Northdale neighbourhood, which occupies the area behind Wilfrid Laurier University’s St. Michael Campus, have put their houses up for sale in an effort to combat the plummeting property values that they’ve seen their homes subjected to in recent years.
“Families aren’t going to move in here with their children. There are no [elementary] schools, there are no stores nearby, so a parent coming in with little children is going to have a problem living here,” said Jim Facey, who, along with his wife Ruth has raised three daughters on Larch Street.
“Now with the restrictions on the new rental bylaw, you can only rent four bedrooms and a bedroom’s worth about $65,000 each…. That’s a far cry from the almost $400, 000 [that the house is worth]…. It has devastated our property values.”
The Northdale neighbourhood has been a long-standing issue for Waterloo city council as the area has shifted to becoming more heavily populated with students, there have been clashes with permanent residents and bylaw enforcement. With the area dominated by houses rented out to students, and the recent rental housing bylaw limiting the number of tenants per house to four, the property values in Northdale have taken a considerable hit, to the point where someone like Facey is unable to get anywhere near full value for his 1000-square foot house.
That was what inspired Paul Ellingham to take action.
Ellingham lived in the Northdale neighbourhoord for 15 years, up until last year, and he felt that he and his neighbours weren’t being treated fairly by the city.
“At this point there’s a feeling that the city is leaving Northdale out,” said Ellingham. “We see the writing on the wall that our homes aren’t worth what they used to be because of the new bylaw, all the restrictions and because of what seems to be the city’s desire to see all students forced into high-rise buildings…. It just doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel like there’s transparency and I think everybody’s scared of what that result might be.”
So Ellingham began going around Northdale, asking his neighbours if they would be interested in banding together and selling their homes as part of block, rather than individually. It seems they were all very interested as on Friday afternoon, 31 signs that read “Northdale For Sale By Owners” sprung up around the neighbourhood, in front of houses owned by both permanent residents and landlords who do not occupy the property.
The entire block of 21 houses, bordered by Hemlock, Hickory, Larch and Balsam Streets make up the bulk of this group sale, with the remaining ten homes coming on the other side of Larch Street and between the intersections of Hickory and Larch and Hickory and Hazel Streets.
“The City wants development and if we sell our houses as a block, a developer is more likely to buy it and do something with it, so we thought the properties will be a lot more valuable that way,” said Ellingham. “There’s just the fear that the city doesn’t care about the people [in Northdale] and that if we stay here, we’re just going to see our property values keep going down.”
While clashes between students and permanent residents have been well documented in Northdale, according to Facey, the students are not the problem.
“We have no problem with the students and we really never have,” he said. “Typically, when new students move in they come over, give me their telephone number and say ‘any problems, just call’ and we’ve never had to call…. We’ve enjoyed living here, and we’re still happy, but our age just doesn’t allow us to continue indefinitely.”
“The people in Northdale are not against students at all. We wouldn’t have been there for as many decades as we were if the students were the problem,” added Ellingham. “The change at this point is the City’s attitude. That’s what causing us the grief.”
And as for the houses involved that are owned by landlords, while many involved in the group sale are currently unoccupied, with ‘For Rent’ signs in their windows, at least one student resident received warning of the coming change.
“There were a couple people coming around asking for contact information for other landlords around here to do this co-ordinated effort,” said Laurier student and Hickory Street resident Drew Garlichs. “And my landlord sent me an email saying that this isn’t going to effect me until the end of next year.”
According to Ellingham, there has already been interest in the block from developers, however, the homeowners are not going to jump at an offer right away.
“There have been some people who have called and said they would be interested in buying the smaller block, maybe, 10 houses,” said Ellingham. “But right now we’re going to wait and we’re going to invite all interested people together and have a kind of auction.”
More on Northdale and rental housing issues