News

Plans to expand off-campus residence space face opposition

The University of Ottawa is seeking to create additional off-campus housing in the downtown region by converting private properties to house students.

Last December, the U of O released a Request for Information asking the private sector what their plans were for building residence-like structures within a 15-minute walk from campus. The university is looking to partner with private companies to build student housing.

The school hopes to provide an additional 1,000 beds within the next three to four years.

While still in the early stages, the expansions are not being met with open arms. Action Sandy Hill (ASH), a local community association, is against the university’s plan to build more student housing off campus. ASH and residents living within walking distance of the U of O cite unkempt yards, noise complaints, and parking issues as the chief areas of concern.

The community group believes post-secondary institutions must take responsibility for their increasing student population.

“Allowing landlords to jam 20 students into what was a single family home and call it development does not constitute good planning,” wrote the ASH executive in an open letter to the Ottawa Citizen.

The U of O currently offers housing for 3,000 students out of the 42,000 enrolled.

U of O president Allan Rock said the school wants to meet the growing demand for campus housing. The university currently promises all first-year students a spot in residence, but with such a high demand, the guarantee is becoming more difficult to uphold. He said citizens in the area want the university to limit the construction of residences to campus, which he called “unreasonable.”

“If there’s a lovely structure on Rideau or Laurier which looks like an apartment building which has 150 units, why not?” said Rock.

The Residence Association of the University of Ottawa (RAUO) is against bringing in private developers because of the problems it may bring.

“We are hoping a solution can be found where instead of going off into Sandy Hill and away from campus that more beds can be found on campus,” said Kaitlynne-Rae Landry, president of the RAUO.

While the U of O faces pressure to build more residences, there are considerable financial restraints preventing on-campus developments. Rock said the school would like to tear down the Leblanc residence and build a better-quality complex to house more students, but can’t proceed due to a lack of funds.

ASH cites that open spaces on the university campus could be potential residence spots–but those empty lots have already been designated for other purposes.

“For every piece of open property you see on the campus, we have something in mind,” said Rock.

He said the university hopes to make more green spaces available as early as September 2015.

Rock also said the university has plans to make the campus more user-friendly, environmentally friendly, and accessible for students. Future development plans include connecting the canal to the school in a way that is more accessible to pedestrians.

The U of O plans to open a new residence building on Henderson Street, housing 150 units, in September 2015.