Town and Gown Committee

Campus opening, residences and rentals update

Jan Meldrum

The community and campus stakeholders on the T&G committee met via Zoom on June 10 with reports from our councillor and the University of Ottawa.

Councillor Fleury’s short report referenced the second phase of opening of the COVID-19 lockdown to start this week; the closing of Rideau Street from Sussex to Dalhousie which will continue to the fall; and the cancelling of this year’s Panda game and thus any associated problems.

President Jacques Frémont’s campus is dealing with mental health and racism issues, as well as COVID-19 impacts.

U of O President Jacques Frémont noted that discrimination and racism is at the top of mind. The university is continuing to work to end incidents such as carding and going further with anti-racism policies. They are also dealing with mental health concerns for all plus extra support for racialized students.

The campus is slowly starting to open after the COVID-19 closure, starting with some labs and research facilities. This will allow students who were unable to graduate because of closures in March to finish programs and graduate in the fall. The university is working with Ottawa Public Health on necessary restrictions. For the first term this fall 95% of courses will be online. Residences, libraries and food services will be open but student presence on campus will not be necessary.

Housing Service Director Rachelle Clark described the procedures for residences. Starting in September the maximum number of students in residence will be 3100 instead of the normal 4200. The expectation is that not all 3100 will come. Many have the option of arriving for the second term. The July 6 deadline for students to make their choices will allow a better estimate of numbers in residence.

ASH director Paula Tchen helped Susan Young clarify neighbourhood concerns.

Susan Young, President of Action Sandy Hill, asked that ASH be given the July 6 estimate to help predict apartment rentals in the neighbourhood. It would be a shame to have vacancies in Sandy Hill apartments, many of which are only useful for groups of students, when there is a rental shortage in Ottawa as a whole.

Susan also thanked the university for dedicating a small residence for marginally-housed families and youths who were isolating because of COVID-19.

Marc-Antoine Joly from UO Facilities said that the university is temporarily holding off on long-term residence planning to see whether online courses become more prevalent. The assumption before the lockdown had been that in the long term the university would have 6500 residence beds. The university does have a student housing strategy underway.

A discussion of the effect on Sandy Hill rentals of the sudden drop in students brought up the point again that there would be difficulty in renting the many recently built student-style apartments to non-students. These apartments, designed with several bedrooms and small common spaces, are not suitable for families, singles or couples of any age. This point made by ASH president Susan Young highlights the need for more flexible design of rental units in the neighbourhood.