With Old Ottawa South apparently up in arms about the horror of students moving into an enlarged house, and the Councillor uttering sympathetic concerns, I thought it time to do a little case study of a house in Dalhousie.
It was a semi-detached for its first century. It’s on a corner lot, the front facing a busy street, the side door facing a quieter street. It’s on one of those funny corner lots that is tiny from the get go, maybe 50′ deep, so the back of the house is maybe 10′ from the rear lot line, leaving just enough space for one car to park off street, to be shared by both semi’s. The front door debouches directly onto the main street sidewalk. Cozy for sure.
The new buyer installed lockable bedroom doors, and the three or four second floor bedrooms were rented to separate students. Some from Ottawa U, some Carleton, as the house is convenient to buses and the OTrain station. The third floor was fixed up, making another one or two bedrooms (air conditioned!). A few years later, the basement got a bedroom, with a bathroom, which might make up for the subterranean gloom and vibrations from the buses and trucks. Then the basement got a bigger window. Then a year or two ago the living and dining room were walled off, and rented out to more students. So there’s at least 7 bedrooms there, maybe 9. They share the bathrooms, and the kitchen.
It’s easy to tell when girls dominate the tenant list. The side porch is tidier. Some even put out plants — domesticity seeking expression. I’ve chatted with a girl sitting on the porch trimming her pet rabbit’s toenails. Who knew?
When guys dominate, the porch is a disaster zone. Getting garbage out on garbage day is a very hit and miss affair. Pizza boxes grow to 3′ pile. And despite the costs of our university system, inmates demonstrate every week that the city’s new garbage schedule is not possible to be learned, nor the rules of what to put in which box and when to put it out. Even by the educated. And once out, cans and recycling boxes rarely come back onto the porch. Instead they stay on the sidewalk til the following week, when garbage is trundled out and put in the plastic barrels already at the curb.
Who says religion is dead among the young? These people believe in reincarnation of material goods, as they put stuff out to appease the recycling gods.
Parking problems? None. There is rarely a car in the driveway. Indeed, they don’t shovel it all winter. Mind, they don’t shovel the steps to the porch either, which means they now function as a sort of forty degree ice slope. Hey, they’re here for brain development, not brawn.
Nor mowing the 3′ x 2′ lawn.
Parties? I’ve never heard a peep from these students. I’ve seen enormous quantities of bottles go out on black-box day, but they have an attraction all of their own and are gone by the end of day.
It’s very cute in late August to see those U Hauls and parent cars show up on the street, parents looking so concerned and dubious about the neighbourhood and the neighbours (who is that shaggy elderly guy creeping around in short pants and beat-up sandals?). Eventually little darling is installed, and life’s adventure begins.
Students come and go at all hours of the day and night. They add a lot of pedestrian traffic to the street, whether it be 7am, 10am, 2pm, or 6pm. It is impossible to predict whether more students will be coming or going to classes. Occasionally they come back in pairs, somewhat shyly walking the street, self-conscious. I think all this adds hugely to the subjective safety of the street. When I next fall on the ice, I hope its some cute young thing who comes to my rescue.
Because they all have cell phones.
Strangely, they must not love the house or the location too much, because they all locate elsewhere the next year. I’ve never recognized a student for two years running. But the house stays full.
And the amount of furniture that gets tossed out each May … its enough to restock Ikea. Or Sarah Richardson’s next dream home (when spray painted).
I might find the experience different if it was one of a row of student houses. Or by a bar. Or very close to campus (same thing?). Or if the students get swapped out for another clientèle.
For now, as student housing, it’s no sweat. They are polite. They contribute to street life. They are not as domesticated as some, but are better than others I could point out in the area. They need a place to live. They are our children. They are our future. Hopefully they are tomorrow’s taxpayers, and I hope they all get really high paying jobs.
If other neighbourhoods make you unwelcome, com’on here.