The Waterloo Region raised concerns regarding the fire risks associated with student housing after 18 students were discovered living in a single-family home in Kitchener’s Lower Doon neighbourhood in 2018.
Although the situation appears to be disobedience of fire safety regulations by students, it may point towards a much larger issue of limited affordable student housing.
“As a member of the Town and Gown Committee for Kitchener, I have heard stories about some housing being at and above capacity for comfortable living conditions,” Scot Wyles, president of Conestoga Students Inc. said in a press release.
The city classifies any home with more than four bedrooms as a lodging house — under city rules, lodging houses are to be licensed and have all of their occupants registered to the city.
Any changes in the use or layout of the property will require the owner to get new building permits approved.
The issue can be traced to various cities experiencing shortages in affordable student housing.
Take this case from the Toronto neighbourhood called the Village, a popular student housing community for students attending York University.
Although rooming houses are not permitted in the North York region, landlords are still renting out rooms to students — rooms that often lack windows, solid doors and carbon monoxide detectors.
“We’ve had a number of fatalities over the last number of years in rooming houses that did not comply with the Ontario Fire Code,” Jim Jessop, Deputy Fire Chief of Toronto said.
Fire prevention typically operates on a complaint basis, the discovery of the 18 students living in an unlicensed home in the Lower Doon area raises concerns that there might be similar cases in the area.
“The overall intent of our staff is to ensure the use of a property is within the boundaries of what can be done legally and safely,” Tom Ruggle, the Kitchener Fire Department’s chief fire prevention officer, said.
Since the incident, KW is carrying out a planning study of the Lower Doon area intending to formulate a planning framework that accommodates both long term residents and students and encourages fire safety.