Planning for the future

The compiled results of the Northdale Strategic Planning Session, held this past April, have been released, giving insight into the future of the Waterloo community. The plan looks at solving many of the issues of the growing student population in the area.

Housing and zoning for the area continues to be the predominant issue. Poorly maintained and unlicensed student rental houses, along with unplanned placements of permanent residents and rental homes, have become the source of Northdale’s problems.

The strategic plan includes putting a cap on the number of bedrooms a rental home can have. This would minimize overcrowding in student houses, and ensure homes are used for their original purpose.

Improving the layout of the area is also being considered. The addition of green space, bike paths, accessible shops and parking will improve traffic by promoting alternatives to driving.

The increase in the number of students in the area poses potential complications for housing. The WLU Waterloo campus’ growth trajectory is set to reach approximately 15,000 students in the next 30 years.

Overall growth of the university, outlined in the soon to be completed master plan, will require new residences to house more students.

The university considered using the already existing Northdale campus to build a new residence; however, the idea of bringing a large number of students to the centre of the neighbourhood was not well received by the city.

Gary Nower, assistant vice president of physical resources, explained, “The consensus was that Northdale [campus] was very appealing, but it wouldn’t fit in well with what [the city is] trying to achieve. So we decided that Laurier Place was the best option.”

Redeveloping the Laurier Place residence is the current solution the university will pursue, leaving the Northdale campus as an academic building and eliminating the need for new property.

Adherence to city by-laws, including noise and garbage removal, will continue to be strictly enforced.

“We are looking at updating our by-laws,” said Jim Barry, director of by-law enforcement for the city of Waterloo. “We’re definitely looking at increasing our fines or other incentives.”

Bringing more small families to the area was a pressing issue voiced by long-term residents at the April planning session. The expense of buying property in Northdale, in addition to the drawbacks of the area discussed at the session, has thus far prevented this.

“How many families have moved in? It’s landlords buying the properties because it’s too expensive. It has to be a business to maintain the property,” explained Chris Wiederman, a local landlord for student housing.

This is one problem that doesn’t have a clear solution.

Property values are not controlled by the city but by the real estate market. “The city doesn’t set free market value of any particular property, that’s not the city’s responsibility,” explained city councillor Jan d’Ailly.

Licensing by-laws surrounding rental homes are under the city’s control. “The city [has] come back to program now to investigate the application of a rental licensing by-law that would apply to low density housing,” said d’Ailly.

“It’s a public process … that will begin before the beginning for the summer.”

All by-law changes will be presented to City Council as they are developed and discussed by the city and community members. Follow-up Town Hall meetings to further discuss the planning for the community will occur in October of this year.