Ward 6 needs more than an easy fix

The Waterloo municipal election is just weeks away and most of us are wondering what the candidates are going to propose to fix Northdale. After reading and re-reading promotional material from each candidate, I have yet to see any kind of feasible vision being proposed for Northdale that is in the interest of both permanent residents and students. By promising to “look into it” the issue has clearly been pushed to the back burner. Northdale, otherwise known as the “student ghetto” of Waterloo, stretches from University Avenue to beyond Columbia.

Ward 6 has a lot of issues, primarily the blocks upon blocks of small, wartime homes housing unrealistic amounts of students that create a cluster of loud, raucous activity with a general lack of interest towards neighbours and permanent residents of the community.

This is generally what is expected as student life and is subsequently the accepted view of what goes on in Northdale. Although there are many houses where students live quietly and in harmony with their neighbours, the vast majority are continuously in conflict. Many solutions raised by groups and by members of the community have included urbanization and the construction and redevelopment of apartment buildings.

This is much easier said than done. The integration of both the academic communities of the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University (students and staff) living close to campus along with everyday residents is incredibly important and has been sidelined as an issue.

It seems that all parties have their eyes set on some sort of utopian vision of this modern urbanized area and are not acknowledging how this is not at all a plausible reality.

In short, all the proposed amendments to this neighbourhood fall short of what is actually attainable and what is needed to integrate students back into the community. Landlords don’t want to sell their properties; students won’t necessarily want to move into apartment buildings.

Furthermore, the area lacks essential student needs like a grocery store. Without considering the thoughts and needs of the population, the Northdale neighbourhood will not move forward.

Northdale needs a revamp. It needs to be turned from a run-down area to a student-friendly and family-friendly neighbourhood with the amenities that other neighbourhoods enjoy. Energy efficient, sustainable single-family dwellings mixed with apartments and town homes, offset by parks and a grocery store would all be included in my vision for the area.

We don’t just need to construct buildings, either: we need a sense of community, a sense of safety and most importantly a change of frame of mind. We students can’t accept to live in these conditions, and neither should those families.

In regards to the election, if each candidate fails to give students an idea of what would be an ideal sustainable solution, everybody loses.

This is not an “if you build it, they will come” scenario. This is not a magical kind of fix that councillors can suggest the city impose upon Ward 6. No, it’s a long-term reconstruction of not just the houses and the area that worked just fine fifty years ago: it’s a change of the frame of mind that surrounds how people see the university community.

There are always a few students who ruin it for everyone else, and unfortunately for us, there are a lot of them in one small area causing a whole lot of trouble. Setting our sights on an improved Ward 6 and Northdale is one thing, but making it happen is another.

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