By Brooke Timpson

The City of Ottawa has come up short for housing solutions and it seems that students might be the ones caught in council’s crossfire.
With freezes on residential housing conversions, the city has put a temporary hold on any further conversions from single to multiple rentals.

That bandage remains in place until April 2014 and it seems a concrete solution hasn’t been agreed upon.

This will have an effect on the stock of housing for students.

The latest news in the housing saga reads like any other municipal play: residents are up in arms about problems in their neighbourhoods, the city holds consultation after consultation to try to patch the issue with a re-election campaign in mind, and the universities and colleges are caught somewhere in the middle.

While the city and its residents seem to be quick to call out loud volumes of over packed student housing in their neighbourhoods, let’s not lose focus of the fact that this is an issue that can also only be solved with a landlord’s compliance. They, too, will need to adhere to new housing policies, whatever they will eventually be.

The city must also ask itself: do the majority of students who might only be in the city to complete a four-year degree care about living in a house packed full of fellow classmates for a cheaper monthly rate?

Not usually. In fact, we usually bill that as “the university experience.”

Most recently, we’ve seen an effort by local College Ward councillor Rick Chiarelli to cap conversions and, ultimately, complaints from his constituents.

Chiarelli would like to impose a demerit point system on negligent landlords and tenants, the ones who think it’s a great idea to cram eight people into a three-bedroom home.

The councillor has also expressed an interest in creating a perimeter around Algonquin’s campus with new rules that will only allow room rentals in licensed homes that are limited to one kitchen, one common area and up to a maximum four rooms.

A step in the right direction? Perhaps.

But will this solve the overall shortage of housing for students?

Will these new rules hinder students’ options when it comes to finding housing around campuses next fall?

Multiple developers have also proposed to build off-campus housing units for students in and around university areas.

Their proposals have been met with neighbourhood rejection.

A petition signed by 1,100 people urging the University of Ottawa to build more on-campus housing recently cemented Sandy Hill’s “not in my backyard” mentality when it comes to off-campus solutions.

Residents agree that there needs to be housing solution; they just don’t want shovels dug into the ground of their neighbourhood.

With the clock ticking, it is imperative for all of the affected parties to come up with a smart and realistic housing solution. One that not only considers present day shortages, but future needs.

Yet, building a liveable Ottawa doesn’t include building up, down or out when it comes to housing conversions.

But it can, and should, include landlords, the city and future tenants agreeing to build a fair and balanced solution.

Students, let’s not allow Ottawa’s housing shortages to limit our options.