The City of London has proposed a strategy to help improve neighbourhoods near campus and around the City — a plan that will directly impact students.
The Great Near-Campus Neighbourhoods Strategy, prepared by London city planner Michael Tomazincic, consists of 10 main strategies, which are further divided into specific proposed initiatives. After decades of tension between general Londoners and student residents, the strategy aims to harmonize differences and meet the needs of both demographics.
One of the initiatives is the city planners’ recommendation of hosting an annual housing fair at both Western and Fanshawe College in order to welcome students into the community.
Another objective is ensuring safe housing, which would involve running training sessions for landlords and distributing an accredited housing list.
While the strategy suggested a number of implementation techniques, Western already has several of these in place.
“We did a workshop with landlords just to go over what landlords should be careful of. We also sent out communications to landlords to make them aware of what’s transpiring,” Glenn Matthews, housing mediation officer for Western and Fanshawe College, said.
Under the eighth strategy, the city planners hope to improve transit linkages and the hours and regularity of the transit service.
“You’re likely to see some changes as early as next week. They’re not tied directly to the campus strategy per se but are considered annually through our annual service plan,” John Ford, director of transportation and planning for the London Transit Commission, said.
Ford mentioned changes occurring next week will be made to the 19 Oakridge, 30 Newbold and 31 Orchard Park bus routes, resulting in a late-evening service.
The Strategy also mentioned the possibility of providing bus service after bar hours downtown.
“The [University Students’ Council] has for a long time been supportive of late night buses. We think it would increase both the safety in terms of getting students home safely at night and it would address the [neighbourhood] concerns of students wandering home near campus,” Dan Moulton, USC vice-president university affairs, said.
According to Ford, LTC declined the implementation of this service last year due to workplace priorities and the availability of resources.
“It was unfeasible with so many competing demands for reduced resources,” Ford said. “But it may happen later on down the line when we switch to a more ‘big-city’ transit system.”
New residences on-campus
The Strategy also suggested the construction of more on-campus housing — built either by the academic institution or by a private sector partner.
According to Matthews, Western does not plan to build another residence in the near future.
“We probably spent $100 million on residences in the last 10 years and if the economy is the way it is, you have to be careful about what you’re doing,” he said.
Matthews also mentioned this element of the plan is more directed towards Fanshawe as colleges were not allowed to build residences on-campus until the mid-1990s.
“Fanshawe has built three residences in the last 10 years and are looking to build more if they can. But there is no extra funding for residences on campus at either Western or Fanshawe,” he added.
While the USC is supportive of the Strategy’s principles, Moulton mentioned there are several concerns from students.
“At this time we’re reviewing the plans, looking at some of the benefits it will provide for students on-campus and for some of the concerns we have,” Moulton said.
Moulton mentioned the USC will be drafting a letter to the City outlining recommendations that are more in line with what students want.
“Generally the University has been supportive of the initiative […] from Western’s perspective, our main concern is that there is housing available for students and that it is safe,” Matthews noted.
However, he expressed concern the Strategy mostly talked about goals that are not necessarily specific.
“I’d like to think [the Strategy] enhances our current processes, but [the LTC] looks to those issues on an annual basis [either way],” Ford said.
City planner Tomazincic noted the purpose of the strategy is to benefit students.
“We wanted to make it clear that this is not an anti-student strategy,” he said.