After several years of trying to solve problems in the Glendale area of Niagara-on-the-Lake, mostly seen to be caused by rental housing, members of a task force which began meeting in 2011 to deal with those problems asked councillors to approve long-term rental licensing as a solution.
Minutes of the Glendale Task Force July meeting, accepted by council, asking for a licensing bylaw, recommending it be written to provide access to properties for bylaw officers to allow for inspections, parking plans be included in applications for licensing, the number of bedrooms be restricted, reasonable application frees be imposed, among other conditions.
The task force also asked for other more minor issues to be addressed, such as more garbage cans in Niagara-on-the-Green, more community boards in the neighbourhood, having parking spaces painted to help control parking, and increased presence by police and bylaw officers heading into September and the start of Niagara College, which brings students to the area to rent rooms locally.
Karen Glausser, who has been a member of the Glendale Task Force since its inception, spoke about escalating problems in the neighbourhood, including a party recently that was noisy, dangerous and saw some acts of vandalism in the area.
She reminded councillors that even before the formation of the task force, she spoke to council about Phase 3 of the residential neighbourhood, which was just getting underway, with all semi-detached homes and townhouses.
“We let the council at the time know of the problems associated with high density housing in our college and university area. In my presentation, I highlighted for you that there would be noise issues, declining property standards, major parking issues and that the safety for both long-time residents and the students crammed into student homes with absent landlords as a major issue. While I am usually one to always be positive and try to refrain from inappropriate comments, I would just like one little moment where I say 'I told you so.' Everything that we said that night has indeed happened in Phase 3.”
Glausser said while the need for licensing in the area is controversial, it is needed, and is the most important motion to move forward on to rectify problems with absentee landlords, noise, parking problems and student safety, especially from fire if codes are not obeyed.
“Please help us continue to move forward – you have the chance to make a difference tonight in our community.”
Glausser said she recognized a licensing bylaw might take some time, but asked councillors Monday to “get the town staff to get cracking” on drafting the bylaw “so that the next council can get right to work on this when they come together.”
Town planning director Craig Larmour presented the results of an online survey to council Monday showing the majority of respondents are in favour of long-term rental licensing.
Some of the comments posted on the Town's Join the Conversation site indicated residents support licensing rentals for reasons of tenant safety; reducing the number of unkempt yards; controlling on-street parking, which impacts snow removal; and limiting the number of tenants. Comments also suggested heavy fines for those who contravene licensing regulations should be imposed, Larmour said.
Those against licensing cited bylaws in place to address the majority of concerns, and suggested more proactive enforcement. Licensing would increase costs and negatively impact rental opportunities and affordable housing, and is “overkill” for single family rental, survey comments said.
Most questions were answered by just 68 people, and of those 15 were opposed to licensing.
In response to a student renting a room in NOTL who told council such a bylaw in Glendale would be a human rights violation, Larmour told councillors he had received a Human Rights document, indicating a bylaw limited to just one neighbourhood could be considered an infringement on the rights of those who live in that area.
Another resident of the neighbourhood told councillors she disagreed with the need for licensing, calling it “divisive and controversial.” She suggested problems could resolved by a meeting of all involved, including students.
Coun. Jim Collard said although he had no problem with a test case licensing bylaw Glendale, he couldn't support one that would apply across the town. Before considering that, he said, given the small number of respondents to the survey, it should be discussed by a much larger representation.
Council approved a motion by Coun. Terry Flynn that town staff would move forward on the smaller “actionable” items requested in the task force recommendations, with a report from staff on the licensing issue to come back to council.