By: Tanvi Pathak
In March, McMaster Students Union is slated to release its second annual municipal budget submission to Hamilton city council.
According to Shemar Hackett, the MSU associate vice president (Municipal Affairs), the budget submission will prioritize transit, student housing, student employment, bylaws and enforcement and lighting.
After consulting students and reviewing data from The Your City survey, the MSU decided these key areas were ones that stood out as issues that needed immediate attention.
The committee’s decision to focus on these areas is also linked to the rising demand for off-campus housing.
According to Andrew Parashis, a property manager at Spotted Properties, the largest property management in the McMaster community, demand for student housing has soared in recent years.
Parashis notes that with the increase of local and international students attending McMaster, the waiting list for students seeking accommodations through Spotted Properties has tripled in the last year alone.
The municipal budget submission will also focus on accessible employment opportunities.
The union’s education department and municipal affairs committee’s recommendations aim to offer proactive solutions for each issue and improve Hamilton’s attractiveness to students and recent McMaster grads.
One of the committee’s recommendations is for the city of Hamilton to implement a lighting audit across Ward 1.
Hackett emphasized that there are neighborhoods off-campus substantially lacking in visibility. As a result, many students do not feel comfortable walking home late at night after classes.
A lighting audit would reduce these issues in these neighborhoods and identify priority locations for new street lights.
The committee reached out to the Ward 1 councilor Maureen Wilson, who was receptive to the committee’s recommendation and is confident that the proposal will be valuable to McMaster and Ward 1.
Another recommendation calls for city council to move forward with the landlord licensing project discussed in December.
Hackett and Stephanie Bertolo, MSU vice president (Education), articulated their stance on landlord licensing to Ward 8 city councilor Terry Whitehead, who sits on the Rental Housing sub-committee.
Since then, the motion to implement a pilot project was brought to council and endorsed by many councilors.
Prior to the development of the budget submission, the committee consulted city officials.
The committee plans to continue to meet with the city staff and councillors to push for their recommendations and make them a priority for the council.
Thus far, they have met with Terry Cooke, CEO of the Hamilton Community Foundation, to discuss student engagement and retention and the ways in which organizations can support one another in the future.
The municipal affairs committee has also been successful in implementing its Landlord Rating system, a platform developed by the MSU education department.
The landlord licensing project, which the committee has also been lobbying for, got the Hamilton city council rental housing sub committee’s stamp of approval and will be put forth into discussion during the next city council meeting.
“The council has been extremely receptive to all our points about the agreements we put forth,” said Hackett, adding that the MSU budget submission has proven to be a valuable resource for lobbying municipal stakeholders.
Over the next few weeks, the municipal affairs committee will meet with city councilors and community stakeholders to advocate for their budget submission proposals.