By: Donna Nadeem

On Jan. 29, the McMaster Students Union submitted their pre-budget recommendations to city hall on how tax dollars ought to be used in Hamilton. The five main areas of investment that the pre-budget submission recommends are transit, student retention and employment, housing, by-laws and waste management.

The submission discusses having an increase in Hamilton Street Railway services on week-ends and in the summer, and have the 51 bus route running every day of the year. In 2017, the city of Hamilton decided to delay year three of the Hamilton 10 Year Local Transit Strategy. The MSU hopes that the $2.1 million that was ensured for the 2018 deliberations is eventually invested.

“Our budget submission more focused on the ten year transit strategy,” said Stephanie Bertolo, the associate vice president (Municipal Affairs). “Last year the council decided to delay funding year three, and that was due to a number of factors a lot of them for very good reasons. Now we’re just making sure that they do go ahead with funding year three.”

Regarding student retention and employment, the MSU would like to see an increase in jobs relating to interdisciplinary fields including political science, economics and labour studies. It is also put forward that opportunities like these should be advertised and made more accessible to students.

“The summer jobs program right now is very vague about what opportunities there are. There are jobs for recreation and landscaping, and those are very detailed of what you would be doing, and then there’s course-specific jobs, where they don’t actually tell you what you’ll be doing, you’re just supposed to tell them what your degree is in and then they’ll try to match you with a job but they don’t tell you what jobs are available and you don’t really know the criteria,” said Bertolo.

The MSU suggests advertising on-campus outlets such as TV screens and coffee sleeves in the McMaster University Student Centre because these advertisements would reach over 16,000 undergraduate students because it is a frequent high traffic area.

“We’d be advertising just that the jobs are open, because the jobs are open right now and I don’t think that anyone knows,” Bertolo stated.

Safety in student housing is a growing concern for the MSU as well. In order to ensure student safety, it is recommended that the city adopt a landlord licensing system to ensure that they are promoting their buildings as safe and clean environments.

“Every landlord [would have] to pay a fee in order to get a license and that just helps fund programs running for the city to do those proactive checks to insure that the unit is up to code,” said Bertolo.

The MSU also recommend that the City of Hamilton overhaul the current by-law enforcement tactics used in the neighbourhoods surrounding McMaster. The MSU suggests instead of punitively targeting students, the city should invest in educating students through the MSU Student Community Support Network program and form restorative justice and mediation programs.

“The by-law program that was recently increased, they are targeting lawn, snow and exterior by-laws, so its really important for students to know about like how long your grass needs to be, before you get a ticket for not cutting it,” Bertolo added.

Finally, in order to increase the amount of materials recycled, the MSU recommends the city of Hamilton should switch to a single-stream recycling program. McMaster University has adopted a single-stream recycling program as have many other cities including Toronto, Halton and Mississauga.

The MSU believes that if the council adopts these five key priorities, then the city of Hamilton will not only be a better place for students to live throughout their undergraduate career but also will intrigue graduates to choose Hamilton as a place to have a family and age successfully.

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By: Tashy Davidson

McMaster is moving along with plans to build a residence just off the east end of campus, on Main Street West between Forsyth Avenue South and Dalewood Avenue.

Last year, McMaster owned only the section of land on the corner of Dalewood Avenue and Main Street West, but has since bought the rest of the block from scholar properties, so that they now own the full stretch from Dalewood Avenue to Forsyth Avenue and from Main Street West to Traymore Avenue.

“McMaster is a land-locked 300-acre campus and we’ve worked hard to find appropriate sites on campus for new buildings. … There is not a suitable site on campus for this kind of project,” said Gord Arbeau, director of communications at McMaster.

On a number of building projects, such as the extension of Ann Bourns Building and the Peter George Living and Learning Centre, the university has worked within its existing boundaries. But the proposed Main Street West residence would not.

The university recently began the site plan approval process with the city of Hamilton, where members of affected neighbourhood associations can voice their concerns. If McMaster’s proposal is approved, the next step will be to obtain a building permit from the city of Hamilton.

Right now, there is no set construction date since it depends on the outcome of the public consultation.

If approved, there will be two stages to the construction process.

Phase one would see the construction of a 12-storey, 950-bed residence on the corner of Main Street West and Forsyth Avenue.

Phase two would extend the building to Dalewood Avenue and include 450 beds, but its construction will depend on “demand and market conditions,” Arbeau explained.

Either way, the 950- or 1,400-bed residence would become part of McMaster’s on-campus residence system, operating under the same policies and regulations and offering the same programming and services as other residences.

In addition to the proposal for the Main Street residence, McMaster has already begun construction of the Peter George Centre for Living and Learning, which will hold 500 beds and open Sept. 2019.

Between the academic years 2004-2005 and 2012-2013, full-time undergraduate and graduate student enrolment increased 28 per cent.

These new beds will help to satisfy increasing demand for on-campus housing. With a current total of 3,578 beds, McMaster “cannot guarantee a residence spot for first year students,” said Arbeau.

As a result, McMaster guarantees residence only to incoming undergraduate students with a high school average of at least 83.5 per cent. According to admissions data from 2016, that would leave about 15 per cent of first-year students having to find a home off-campus.   

In one way or another, many Ontario universities involve high school grades in the residence application process. For some it is a matter of a room guarantee, while others give those with higher averages priority in selecting a residence.

For example, some college residences at the University of Toronto base their acceptance decisions on high school grade averages. The higher the demand for a residence, the higher one’s grade average must be to get into it.

McMaster faces the question of how it should fill its existing space while it works on providing more beds. All universities have to make decisions about how to fill their residence spaces, and some choose to put into use the same hierarchy used in admissions.

Either way, organizations such as the Society of Off Campus Students have an important social role to fill during this waiting period, especially when it comes to integrating first-year students living off-campus.

Bordered by Cootes Paradise and residential streets, McMaster has a lot to keep in mind as its student population grows, and as its infrastructure grows in turn.

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Discrimination from landlords is pervasive in McMaster’s off-campus housing market. Students and grads are finally speaking up and working to address the problem.

In his second year, Alex, a recent McMaster alumnus who requested to be referred to under an alias, and his friends were looking at off-campus housing. With money in hand, they approached an owner.

“We talked to the owner. [Though] he was browsing groups, he seemed more interested in renting to an all-caucasian group than he was to us,” said Alex.

Though Alex and his friends were keen on making the deposit, the owner would not let them.

“He definitely seemed like he was going to take the other group should they have wanted it, though,” said Alex.

After sending some caucasian female friends to the owner with the same deposit, however, Alex was able to secure the place.

A second-year McMaster student experienced problems with her landlord after moving in. Despite being able to speak English fluently, her landlord refuses to communicate with tenants except for the one who spoke the landlord’s first language.

“She does not respond to my texts anymore so I stopped messaging her,” said the student. “One day she sent a contractor and needed to speak to one of us so I took the phone from the contractor. I was explaining the situation when she interrupted me and asked if [the favourite tenant] was in the house, when I said yes, the landlord asked to speak to [her] instead of me.”

Another McMaster student said her landlord started policing the social situation in her house.

“The landlord had made many comments about regulating who comes into the house and who comes over [specifically any male guests] due to the fact that we were ‘women who needed to be taken care of’ and made it clear that he can check in at any time because of safety concerns,” said the student.

“[Students of colour] tell us that they’ve been looking for places for months, and I doubt it’s just bad luck,” 

 

Property Manager
Spotted Properties

Most of the discrimination, however, manifests itself before tenancy. According to a property manager from Spotted Properties, a local consultation and management service that works with landlords during the vetting process, a handful of landlords request student tenants from particular demographics.

The discrimination, in large part, stems from the fact that these landlords are part of an older generation.

“The[ir] bias ranges from gender, university program, race, dress style and the list can go on,” said the property manager, who asked to remain unnamed.

Landlords often explicitly discriminate against students from minority and marginalized groups.

“One time, this elderly lady whispered to me that she doesn’t want to rent to Indian students,” he said.

Academic problems are also grounds for discrimination.

“We get clients who say they only want students in health science…. We also get clients who say they don’t want any social science students.”

Students of colour are disproportionately disadvantaged.

“[Students of colour] tell us that they’ve been looking for places for months, and I doubt it’s just bad luck,” said the property manager. “We started keeping tabs on this and found that towards the end of August, we see an influx of students of colour.”

When asked how Spotted Properties is curbing the discrimination, the property manager said that, though the business has yet to take concrete steps, he believes that education is key.

“We try to disconnect landlords and tell them that, as a company, we can’t accommodate them…. But we want to do more,” he said.

The property manager noted that, because many landlords are parents of McMaster students and grads, the university could also be doing more to reduce discrimination.

“Even if McMaster sent out some awareness information about the laws governing tenancy and the inaccuracy of stereotypes, it could make a difference,” he said.

While increased education may not remedy the problem entirely, it’s a step that needs to be taken.

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Scrolling through the McMaster housing groups on Facebook, posts proclaiming a house’s proximity to campus, low rent or length of bus ride to neighbourhood amenities are abundant. These are but a few of the selling points landlords and tenants scrambling to find another person to fill out the house use to promote their homes, but there are more important factors than the newness of the stove.

You will be spending a lot of time in your student house, so it’s important to find one that suits your needs. Understandably, students are looking to keep the cost of living low. But there’s more to a house than four walls and that kind of lumpy bed and second-hand dresser your parents have been storing in the basement.

Renting a room or house that is inexpensive and convenient seems like a no-brainer, but it’s important to consider a number of other factors too. Do you like living close enough to campus to see Thode, MDCL or the Wilson building? Are you happy to share one kitchen with upwards of five people? Will that horrid shade of beige the whole house is painted slowly grate on you over the course of the long winter?

While convenience feels like the right answer, it’s also worth considering your student rental as an investment in your own future and happiness. It’s okay if it takes time to figure out what that means for you. For me, that means having a 15-minute bus ride between my home and campus and living in an apartment, while a bit more expensive than the standard rental in Westdale or Ainslie Wood, I actually enjoy spending time in. The short commute to school and the relatively slight increase in price has resulted in a boost to my happiness during the school year.

I understand that this is a point of privilege; I am able to work two jobs during the school year meaning I can set aside living expense money every week and month. I also acknowledge that living farther away from campus can be more of a stressor for some people.

I’m not using my own experience as the “correct” one to have. What I’m saying is that you should care about the place you call home during your university years.

When it comes to your housing situation, it’s okay to really consider what you want. If you want to be picky, be picky.

Believe me, there is not much worse than trying to spend time in a dark, grimy student rental. At the end of the day, the investment either in commuting time or rent is probably worth it.

Appliances and 30-second walks to campus do not make a house a home; your happiness does.

By Aidan Johnson, Councillor for Ward 1

This article is in response to our Jan. 12 editorial “Who represents student at city hall?” and is presented as it was received.

In October 2014, I had the honour of being elected city councillor for Ward 1 (West Hamilton).  Many students voted for me.  I remember those votes every day.  I’ve been able to build a relationship of trust with the student community.  It is a bond that I value.

The primary concerns I hear from students relate to ecology and human rights.  Both spheres of policy are constantly on my mind.  To make a greener, bluer City, I have put wheels in motion to ban sale of bottled water at all municipal sites.  I am also working constantly for deeper protection of Cootes Paradise – the fragile marsh-land that rings campus.  To address climate change, I’ve worked successfully for a $1 billion investment to build light-rail transit (LRT) in Hamilton – a potent alternative to cars.  Our new LRT line will begin at McMaster.

On the human rights front, I have been working with Hamilton’s transgender community to create a Trans and Gender Non-Conformity Protocol.  This policy will help secure the equality rights of trans citizens, student and non-student alike.  I am hopeful for the Protocol’s enactment.  I have also helped secure an investment of $50 million in Hamilton anti-poverty initiatives, which will benefit low-income students.

On January 11, the Sil published an editorial by Scott Hastie, arguing – rightly – that I have work to do, to strengthen my bond with the student community.

The editorial makes several good points.  However, it also makes some points that I take issue with.

Hastie refers to my work to protect Westdale Cinema.  I am advocating for Heritage protection for this beautiful, old building (now for sale).  I have asked Mac to consider partnering for use of Westdale Cinema as a lecture hall, or for other purposes  -- e.g. art space, meeting space.

The editorial calls my suggestion that the Cinema be used as lecture hall “an insult to students”.  Hastie’s point is that it’d be hard to get from class at the cinema to a class on campus immediately after.  This is fair.

However, trying to involve Mac in saving the cinema is not “an insult”, to anybody.  The fact that many students enjoy Westdale Cinema is one of the reasons I’m advocating to save it.

Hastie refers to a recent motion passed by Hamilton Council to hire two co-op students as bylaw officers for our Mac neighbourhoods.  Hastie asserts that this decision “deepened the divide between McMaster students and residents”.

But it is not clear how additional enforcement will harm students. Bylaw enforcement targets landlords.  It does not target student tenants. Indeed, I would argue that better bylaw enforcement helps students, as it will create a safer and more hygienic neighbourhood.  It will hold landlords to better account.

On January 12, the Sil published an editorial by Scott Hastie, arguing – rightly – that I have work to do, to strengthen my bond with the student community.

Hastie refers to Council “dragging its heels” on landlord regulation.  This criticism is justified.  In my two years as councillor, I have advocated constantly for landlord licencing.  I am hopeful that we can make real progress on this soon.

Hastie calls for students to become more politically engaged.  I strongly agree with this.  Students are already significant leaders.  Hastie himself is a good example.  It makes sense for all students to become more involved in politics.

Hastie’s editorial offers me a good challenge: “reevaluate the way you consult students”.  I am grateful for this invitation.  I visit campus often.  I meet with students regularly, and have student interns in our Ward 1 office every year.  But I appreciate the need to consult even more.

I am looking forward to further deepening my working relationship both with the whole student community.

By: William Li

Off-campus housing options may soon be getting a boost, as both McMaster University and private developers are pursuing residential projects in response to growing student housing needs.

Traditionally, on-campus residence space is mostly reserved for first-year students, with upper-year and graduate students being responsible for their own housing off-campus. As a result, many neighborhoods surrounding McMaster have become saturated with students, and many homes originally intended for families have been converted into student houses.

In response to growing student demand for off-campus housing, two private developers are planning to build student-oriented residential buildings. Laborer’s International Union of North America is planning to construct a multi-storey residential building in downtown Hamilton aimed at students. Rose Sorce, speaking on behalf of LiUNA, said that downtown would “probably be the best place to put student housing… “Downtown is centrally located, where you can take a bus … and get to both Mohawk or Mac within 5-10 minutes.”

According to the CBC Hamilton, another developer has been taking a closer look at McMaster, by purchasing homes along Traymore Avenue with the intention of turning the block of land between the McMaster University Medical Centre and Dalewood Recreation Centre into a residential building located just across the street from campus.

McMaster University itself is also looking into off-campus housing solutions, and over the summer sought out a private developer willing to design and build the university’s first residence building for graduate students. McMaster is planning to have this project built downtown, to ensure graduate students will have easy access to McMaster’s Jackson Square offices and the David Braley Health Sciences Centre.

Responses from students have been mixed,.

Many expressed concern that commuting from the proposed downtown residences would be inconvenient, though a proposed light rail transit line awaiting reaffirmation from Hamilton City Council aims to improve transit access between McMaster and downtown Hamilton.

“I would infinitely prefer to be in Westdale, or somewhere close to campus, rather than in a tower downtown,” said Liam Crummey, a medical student at McMaster. “I love Westdale, I love living so close to campus, especially the fact that I can walk to campus is a huge benefit. And I just like the neighbourhood, I like being able to go for a run in Cootes, I like being able to go to all the little shops in Westdale — it’s a nice place.”

However, for second-year Arts & Science student Amy Chen, who lives off-campus after residing in Wallingford Hall during her first year, the possibility of more housing options beyond the typical student house was a big draw.

“In my house-hunting there’s been landlords that require applications and personal references,” said Chen. “They also frequently make rooms extra small or make the living room a bedroom.”

In reference to the proposed development on Traymore Avenue, Chen added, “I definitely would [consider it] … I think that this option sounds much nicer than normal student housing.”

The proposed housing projects are all still currently being planned. Once completed, they will provide students with more off-campus housing options.

So… you’re thinking of moving in together?

If you’re thinking of moving in with your partner, chances are you’ve thought long and hard about it. Making a legal commitment to someone is a huge step – one that you can only hope will turn out well. Most of the things people tell you to consider are often common sense: Can you be yourself around them? Do the two of you deal well with conflicts and disagreements? Are you doing it because you want to, or because you feel pressured? Do you feel comfortable farting around them?

Okay, fine, maybe not always the last one, but you get the point. There are so many questions you can ask, so many conversations you can have, and yet, how are you supposed to know what time is the right time to pack your bags, book a U-haul, and make a home out of your destination?

Jyss and Daire are moving in together in May. After sharing their love of television, Jennifer Lawrence and ice cream sandwiches for almost a year and a half, they’ve decided to add a home to the list of things they share.

Q: Why did you decide to move in together?

Daire: We spend almost all our time together, living in either my or her place. We have been really looking forward to it for a while, and since we know each other so well, we know exactly what we needed in our new place…Dishwasher! Laundry! Character! And also, you know, all the romance and stuff.

Jyss: We love each other, we live well together, and it feels like a natural step. Plus, we’ve been spending money on two separate apartments and two sets of groceries, so saving money is a huge bonus.

Q: Which one of you brought it up?

Jyss: My dad was actually the one to bring it up when I was searching for my own apartment last year.

Daire: We had only been dating for five months at that time. We were really surprised [by his suggestion] (“Whoa! Too soon!”), but we have not spent a night apart since… We have been casually apartment hunting since the fall, and started seriously looking after the holidays.

Q: What was the hardest part of the decision?

Jyss: We’ve been lucky. I can’t really say that there were any hard parts. Because we decided to live together several months before our leases end, we’ve had a lot of time to talk about what we’re looking for, in both our apartment and in our relationship, before we even started viewing places. It’s been a nice transition. If anything, deciding what amenities we wanted, along with location, was the hardest part, and reconciling that with our budget.

Daire: If I had to pick one, it’d probably be deciding whose furniture to keep and whose stuff to toss.

Q: Is there anything you’re concerned about?

Jyss: I’m a little worried about us making time to be apart. We love spending time together, and we share a lot of the same friends and interests, so we’re pretty inseparable. I want to make sure we have time apart to keep things fresh and keep our relationship healthy and long-lasting.

Daire: I think it’s normal to feel concerned, especially for couples moving in together who haven’t essentially lived together before. So I do have a little bit of apprehension – maybe it will feel different when everything is a mutual decision, rather than half of our decisions occurring in one or the other’s domain. This applies especially to decisions regarding buying things, as they will now take up shared space, rather than live in my place or her’s.

Q: What aspect of living together are you most looking forward to?

Daire: I can’t wait to officially start a life together, even though we’ve been “living together” for so long. This is the next step in our relationship and in our lives. I’m especially looking forward to waking up next to her in our bed, making her breakfast in our kitchen, and putting the dishes in our dishwasher!

Jyss: I’m excited to see our things together, to have “our” place. I’m also really excited to create a new home in Hamilton, instead of the compact, temporary nature of student housing, and I couldn’t imagine anyone better to do that with.

Q: Any advice for other couples considering moving in together?

Jyss: My best advice would be to talk about it− a lot. Talk about groceries, talk about money, talk about furniture: what you’ll have to contribute and what you’ll have to give up. I also think having a test run of say, a month, living together at one of your places full-time is really helpful. You get to know each other’s habits and pet peeves and you can create strategies for living together before you’re locked in legally.

Daire: I would definitely say to make sure you know that you can live together. How well do you deal with chores, housework, etc. as a couple? Do you have schedules conducive to living together? For us, since we’ve essentially lived together for our entire relationship it is hard to imagine not living together.

From a more practical standpoint, we have set up a joint bank account that we will use to pay our common expenses, such as rent, utility bills, groceries, cleaning supplies. This way, we don’t end up leaning on one person more for groceries, as we can both access the account and both contribute equally.

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