City of Waterloo housing survey aims to gauge the state of student housing

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The Waterloo Town and Gown committee, in partnership with Feds, is conducting a survey on off-campus student housing.


According to Ward 6 councilor Jeff Henry, who is the city councilor attached to Town and Gown, it is “a multi-agency committee that involves all three post-secondary institutions (undergraduate and graduate student associations and administrations of Laurier, Waterloo, and Conestoga), the region, the city, and local residents.”


This survey comes as a result of the city’s new push to make more data-driven decisions.


“To understand how we achieve our vision of a seamlessly connected community that both students and non-students are proud to call home, we need to start with data. And getting there …we need the help of students, including participating in the off-campus housing survey,” Henry said.


Andrew Clubine, the Feds representative on the Town and Gown committee said, “In the spring we dabbled a bit with a small survey … this is our first major project and really it’s about finding out about students’ experiences in student housing in the City of Waterloo and what they expect student housing to be … It’s about being able to make decisions on something solid, and not just anecdotal stuff.”


“As a committee we want to provide direction for the city in terms of what should be done with student housing … I hope it makes the city as well as other stakeholders … aware of what the issues are.


“It’s a lot of finding out what we don’t know and finding out what we can do, in term of policy, to handle it,” Clubine said.


Both Henry and Clubine said they hope the results of the survey will allow them to solve some of the existing issues with student housing.


“Student housing isn’t officially defined anywhere, it’s not a specific class of housing, but half of the new student beds in all of Canada over the past five years have been built in Waterloo. We know it’s an issue particular to here and we don’t know much about it,” Clubine said.


After delayed construction on Schembri Property Management’s new student housing complex at 1 Columbia St. left hundreds of students homeless in September, student housing has been a much-discussed topic.


“This Schembri situation definitely brought it into the public eye, which, as unfortunate as the situation was, I think benefits us a little bit … it’s on people’s minds right now,” Clubine said.


Dave Jaworsky, Waterloo’s mayor-elect, who will take office next month, ran the promise of improving the way student housing works. 


&ldquo;I want to create a mayor&rsquo;s task force on affordable housing which will take into account all issues, from seniors&rsquo; housing, to people who are just getting on their feet, including student housing. We&rsquo;ll come to a strategy in order to handle this and make sure there&rsquo;s less of a chance of this ever happening again,&rdquo; Jaworsky said in an interview with <em>Imprint</em> during his campaign.


&ldquo;We have a meeting with Dave [Jaworsky] tentatively some time in December &hellip; I&rsquo;m sure he&rsquo;ll be interested in [the survey], and what ever else he wants to throw under the purview of that committee would be great,&rdquo; Clubine said.


&ldquo;[The survey] is a really good opportunity to provide feedback &hellip; it really will be taken in account. The more responses we get, the better data we can collect, and the better the decisions that will be made based on it will be,&rdquo; Clubine said


The survey, which can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/s/studenthousing, closes Jan. 26.
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