U of M students cram into unsafe housing, councillor says
'It's degrading the fabric of the community,' Janice Lukes says
A Winnipeg city councillor is looking for action to be taken to control the number of homes near the University of Manitoba that have been converted into student housing.
Janice Lukes, councillor for the South Winnipeg and St. Norbert ward, says the houses that were zoned as family homes have been converted into what can only be recognized as rooming houses.
From the outside, you would never know the houses were converted, except for during the summer when the yards become unkept, she told CBC's Information Radio.
What's going to happen is a house is going to catch on fire and it will burn. And six or eight or 10 students will die.- Janice Lukes
When Lukes was campaigning for her seat on council, going door to door, she said she saw rooms within the houses labeled with numbers. It's something she said they aren't licensed for and is ultimately unsafe.
"The students are getting cheap rent, affordable rent, but it's a complete fire hazard," Lukes said Wednesday.
"It's providing horribly unsafe conditions for the students and for the community itself, it's degrading the fabric of the community."
Landlords, typically from out of town, are buying up houses in the ward being put on the market by couples looking to downsize. These landlords don't care about the community she explains, and they aren't taking care of the properties.
Though there are no firm numbers, Lukes guesses there are more than 100 such houses in the ward and there is one that is properly licensed.
"Here's the sad part. What's going to happen is a house is going to catch on fire and it will burn. And six or eight or 10 students will die. Long grass aside, messy yards aside, this is a very serious safety issue. People will die if we don't deal with this," Lukes said.
Lukes is proposing some grassroots, community action on the matter, such as a steering committee. Bylaw officers have too many constraints placed on them for it to be an effective method, but she believes the community can get a handle on the situation.
"No one level of government is going to fix this. We need the residents to get active and get involved," Lukes said.
"We need to take action ourselves."
City Councillor Janice Lukes encourages anyone who wants, to get in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.