Unsigned Editorial: New housing developments changing student experience
The traditional idea of a student home in Waterloo has been largely erased by the demolition of older student homes in favour of apartment buildings. These apartments have been accompanied by higher prices, zoning issues and increased restrictions on existing small-home owners.
Before the latest “build-up” trend, there were many houses in various states of disrepair prior to being replaced, so it is a positive step having clean, safe housing available for students. New developments, such as the new Northdale plan, offer student accommodations that vary in quality and in cost, despite average costs rising in recent years.
However, as apartment buildings continue to develop near campus, we need to look to alternatives. Students aren’t the only ones running out of options, as landlords are increasingly limited by licensing bylaws that do not apply to apartment buildings. Waterloo and the university should be looking at comparable student towns to gain insight into student housing solutions that do not exclusively focus on apartment buildings.
Apartment buildings are severely altering the history and culture of the area while also taking business opportunities away from homeowners and landlords. At the very least, they are increasingly unoriginal as more are built each year, lining the streets surrounding campus with dozens of similar structures. There seems to be a sense of contentment among development groups to continue constructing similar buildings and a fear of branching out to other types of student housing options like townhouses.
Eventually, rent prices will level out and possibly decrease as apartment buildings continue to create supply faster than demand requires. However, in the mean time, students are suffering from rent costs substantially higher than just a few years ago. Comparable to Toronto prices, some apartments charge upwards of $800/room which are not only too high for the area but also unreasonable for most student budgets.
Developments are designed and constructed with remarkable pace, but community members, developers and university stakeholders need to be sure that a structured approach is taken with the future of Waterloo and student housing in mind.