Originally Posted by scott000
As a current Mac student and Student Rental resident, this article really bothers me.
Let's face it, McMaster is one of the few bright spots in Hamilton and its continued growth and expansion is beneficial to the city in many ways.
I can understand that residents of Ainsile Woods/ Westdale are not thrilled with having so many students in their community but its hard to have a successful post-secondary institution without students. Any university/college community has this 'problem' and if they are really unhappy with the situation, they can move (and benefit from the increased value of their home because of the potential student rental revenue it can generate).
And, as mentioned by others, this proposal would likely reduce the amount of student rental homes (or stall the growth), placing 600 students in an area relatively isolated from nearby homes.
The suggestion to place new McMaster buildings downtown instead of onto the existing campus is ridiculous because it would be unreasonable to have students frequently commute across town between the two locations or to isolate one faculty from the main campus. If a large downtown campus was built downtown, surely the same concerns of West Hamilton residents would be shared by downtown residents and non-retail businesses. We'd be hearing complaints of 'rowdy students scaring away economic development in the core'.
Some measures that should be taken are to implement design guidelines for these types of buildings (neither this proposal nor the West Village Condos have a high quality exterior appearance), place a quota on the # of family homes that can be converted to student rentals each year, and most importantly, the city needs to bring in new employers and take other actions to keep these 20,000 students from leaving Hamilton once they graduate. The strength of having a top university is that it brings a steady flow of highly educated young people into the city; Hamilton needs to utilize this and keep skilled people in the city, not take measures to stop students from coming to Hamilton in the first place (by restricting university growth).
I understand what you're saying, Scott, but I do wonder about a couple things:
A great deal of the homes converted to student rentals are done so illegally: a cap would only increase that.
Many students from McMaster never venture into other parts of Hamilton besides Westdale, and they are not familiarized with the city as a whole nor downtown except some to Hess Village. If Mac expanded undergraduate campuses downtown, this would help change that.
Also, when multiple campuses happen, it works precisely because of that faculty separation. Sure, for example: if an engineering major wants to take a philosophy elective or audit, they may have to go to a different campus, but for all their courses they are still at the location of their main faculty. Although this may limit a bit of cross-pollination between departments, realistically the physical separation does not matter for many faculties and may even be improved by a downtown location.
Here's where I come from, to give you my background. I did my undergrad in Toronto and half of my masters at Mac. I'm slowly finishing my master's while taking full-time a completely different program at the Mohawk/Mac Health Sciences campus: because it pays well enough to allow me to finance the rest of my master's and doctorate. My husband and I have lived downtown in Hamilton for about two years now. I commute to work downtown and I also, for just this month, have been commuting back to Toronto as well. Given our backgrounds, I think I have a fairly unique and comprehensive perspective on this particular topic from an undergrad vs graduate perspective, different types of cities, student interaction, etc - although my perspective is only that of a mid-twenties individual, not the more mature and informed perspectives of longtime Hamiltonians on this board and those with more years of wisdom than I.
Downtown there's more positives than negatives to students relocating there as a whole:
-- one: their housing would pay taxes instead of buildings being vacant or used for subsidized housing,
-- two: the disposable income of students is less than the middle-class and up folks of Westdale/Ainslie Woods, but significantly more than those who aren't employed or are only employed minimally - for everything from groceries to restaurants.
-- three: the image of students is a detraction to neighbourhoods concerned about kids, families, property values... but an asset to neighbourhoods where people typically think of drugs, unemployment, and laziness, both in image and financial benefits
-- four: new initiatives, involvement, and identity from students involved in the downtown and planning events, attending things, and finding themselves suddenly "Hamiltonians" and not just McMaster students is a big shift, and where you live is a big part of that. Graduate students just don't relocate like undergrads do, at least in my experience. Often they have roots in other cities and will commute in to finish their program, especially in the faculties conducive to part-time and flexible study.
-- five: for housing, if there's a downtown campus, not only the immediate area surrounding will benefit but there will be more student housing in other parts of the city that are proximate to the downtown. For example, Beasley and Lansdale could see much more student housing than they currently do.
I feel I'm always borrowing Toronto analogies, but for example let's take Ryerson: If you're a landlord, you'd much rather have students than many of the other residents of that neighbourhood. Students are a better bet: and realistically looking at Beasley for one, the third-poorest neighbourhood in Canada would only be improved by students and student housing there. Imagine a few new LEED-certified student residences just steps away from the core - we should be fighting for that! Imagine coffeehouses fighting to open downtown to serve the student population instead of in Westdale.
In the end, having students familiar with the downtown will keep more of them here and willing to even consider living here instead of moving them from comfortable suburban homes with parents to comfortable suburban homes near McMaster to comfortable suburban homes in Burlington or Oakville or MAYBE the Mountain if they so choose afterwards wherever they choose to go afterwards:
Because they never saw much of Hamilton outside of Westdale/Ainslie Woods, and never got beyond the "ew, dirty! gritty! strange people/activities and broken down stuff is all downtown Hamilton has! What good is it if I can't drive to a Wendy's downtown?!"
type of image that is seriously prevalent all over McMaster and lets students fail to discover any of the benefits of urban living, or the many good things Hamilton has to offer. I've had dozens of conversations with students for whom that was their idea of Hamilton as a city, and overheard dozens more along the same lines... that is a mindset that needs to be changed to keep people here, and a part of it is simple familiarity and understanding of the downtown beyond first impressions (though let's work to improve those for everyone too, right?)