Ontario's chief human rights commissioner warns City of Oshawa about new housing bylaw
The student association representing students at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Durham College is encouraging students to file human rights complaints against the City of Oshawa after a city committee passed a bylaw which will restrict student housing in the area surrounding the UOIT/DC campus.
The new proposed bylaw would limit the number of bedrooms within rental houses in the area surrounding the university to four, regardless of the size of the house. Landlords will have to pay a $250 per bedroom annual licensing fee and carry increased insurance. The policy change has is the result of a nasty year of town-and-gown conflicts that culminated with police raids on student housing in the fall.
"Mayor Gray and the Oshawa City Council haven’t listened to a word that students have said. Now they have declared student renters to be second-class community members and we will have to follow by-law regulations that other Oshawa citizens do not," said Fraser McArthur, president of Durham College and University of Ontario Institute of Technology Students’ Association.
The Canadian Federation of Students opposes the bylaw and is concerned that similar bylaws will be passed by other Ontario cities with large student populations.
"Imposing unreasonable restrictions will result in fewer affordable rental units available and new landlord fees and inspection costs will be downloaded onto student renters," said Jen Hassum, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario. "By driving up the rental costs and reducing housing options in student neighbourhoods, it looks like the Oshawa City Council is trying to run students out of town. From where students stand, this looks like blatant discrimination."
Ontario’s chief human rights commissioner Barbara Hall weighed in on the bylaw. In an open letter sent to the editor of the Toronto Star prior to this week’s vote, Hall warned the City of Oshawa to reconsider its bylaw. "I urge Oshawa City Council members to look closely at what has been proposed, to apply a sound city-wide planning rationale, and to consider the human rights impact of its decision," Hall stated in her letter.
The UOIT/DC students association has taken the letter has an indication that human rights complaints against the city for age discrimination will be successful and has begun the process of filing complaints on behalf of students.
The bylaw will be formally passed by Oshawa City Council on February 18.
Students versus the world, Sept. 20, 2007
Police raid student houses in Oshawa, Oct. 31, 2007
Oshawa may charge student-area landlords up to $1000 annual fee, Jan. 4, 2008
Oshawa Council backs down on controversial housing bylaw, Jan. 16, 2008
Oshawa moves closer to removing students near university, Jan. 23, 2007