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Student housing, living conditions raised at College ward candidates debate

Student housing and living conditions in College ward were among the political issues up for discussion at a councillor candidates debate in Bells Corners Sept. 27.

The debate, which did not include incumbent Councillor Rick Chiarelli who was attending a city council meeting, saw his opponents Emilie Coyle and Ryan Kennery discuss their stances on transportation, crime, infrastructure, environmentalism and transparency.

Of note for Algonquin students was a conversation on proper living conditions and affordable housing.

Both Coyle and Kennery vowed to improve living conditions for students throughout College ward. Coyle in particular spoke about the fire dangers of improperly designed basement apartments.

“We’ve got students living in basements with windows that aren’t big enough to crawl through,” said Coyle, saying that she wanted to work with Algonquin to rid the ward of “illegal student housing.”

Kennery valued a more individual approach, stating that he will “go knock door to door, address things and outreach with students.”

On the topic of housing developments in the Ward, the candidates held opposing opinions.

Kennery supported the creation of more high-rises and apartment buildings, saying that he believed in “growing up, not out.”

Coyle believed that developments needed to be handled on an area-by-area basis. She said that development “needs to reflect the character of the neighbourhood,” and that high-rises don’t fit all communities.

Other elements of debate included lowering the speed limit on Moody Drive, which was met with favour by the audience, a community member questioning the candidates on the collection of criminal data by race — to which both disagreed — and transparency, with both candidates implying they would hold themselves accountable if found to have misled residents.

Roughly 70 people were in attendance for the event, with around three quarters residing in Bells Corners, and the remaining numbers living elsewhere in the College ward.

Video interviews with each of the College ward candidates on issues of specific interest to Algonquin students can be found here.

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