Could Bayview Yards be an opportunity to provide more student housing?
One of the overarching issues that keeps coming up as the team and I knock on doors in the course of campaigning in the upcoming municipal election is how we as a City house a diverse and growing population. In order to grow sustainably, we need to house in relatively close proximity to the core people who want larger single and semi-detached homes, condos, rental housing, students and those challenged to afford market prices. The supply of land within the Greenbelt is limited and demand is high. Prices keep rising.
Those discussions have led me to an idea that I think might be workable to help alleviate pressure on our post-secondary institutions to provide more student housing. There is still substantial land at Bayview Yards left that the City will eventually sell to the private sector for development. What if the City made a land grant of some of it to the major post-secondary institutions to as a consortium run a new student housing residence? Would La Cité, the University of Ottawa, Carleton University and Algonquin College be able to take advantage of a centrally located parcel of land with incredible transit links to all four schools?
The precedent at Bayview is that the City has already made a grant of land to the new Innovation Centre - a Communitech-like facility that will provide space and serve entrepreneurs and start-ups to give a boost to our local economy. If many of those entrepreneurs and their early staff are students, as they are at Communitech, an adjacent student residence could even help strengthen and energize those young businesses.
I'm curious to hear what you think. The opportunity at Bayview Yards is not just to fill City coffers by selling land to the highest private bidders. We can use that opportunity to address other public interest goals such as housing for several different groups that need it. There are trade-offs, of course, and obvious opportunity costs. But public ownership of surplus land - in the City's hands at Bayview, and in the feds' at Tunney's, is a real opportunity to meet housing objectives that can't be met by the market.
(Bayview is also an opportunity for the City to catalyze affordable housing in general. I responded recently to some questions about affordable housing from ACORN; you can read my responses at http://jeffleiper.ca/content/affordable-housing-workshop. Read more about Communitech at http://www.communitech.ca/)