By Carly Yoshida-Butryn
Ryerson plans on turning to private developers to meet the rising demand for residences, but opposition says the move could turn students into second-class citizens.
In the Master Plan Town Hall presentations last week, architect Marianne McKenna from Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects (KPMB) announced the possibility of Ryerson partnering with private developers to create housing options for students.
One of the plan’s immediate recommendations is the creation of 2,000 more residence spaces integrated within the Ryerson community.
“We need [beds] tomorrow to be honest,” said President Sheldon Levy. “If you talk to students about their needs you really get the feeling that more and more students need residence room.”
The cost of purchasing more property, building a residence, managing it and signing students to eight-month leases didn’t work financially for the school, leading them to talk with private developers.
“We did not see how we could swing it,” Levy said. “No company has come in and we haven’t gone soliciting to be quite honest. We’ve been more responsive to individuals.”
But Glen Weppler, manager of housing, said that although Ryerson’s population has been increasing, he doesn’t see the immediate need for the construction of a new building.
“I don’t think there’s an overwhelming demand, but in time, there might be,” he said. If Ryerson does end up turning to the private sector for assistance, he would not be opposed to the idea.
“There’s an advantage to having the university own the residence building, but I don’t think that’s the only option,” said Weppler of the possible partnership with the private sector.
“It has the potential of being a viable option.”
But while there is support for this option from administration, there is extreme resistance from the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).
“We’re opposed to any kind of privatization of campus student residences,” said Dave Molenhuis, Ontario National Executive Representative of CFS.
“Students are going to become second-class citizens in this case.”
Molenhuis said governments should be providing more funding to universities so that they don’t feel the need to turn to the private sector.
Some of his concerns with turning to the private sector include the potentially high rental fees and the idea that the buildings will serve the needs of companies, not students.
“I can’t believe that Ryerson is trying to brand this as a vision of the future when all it’s trying to do is off-load responsibility to the private sector,” he said, adding that students should be consulted when the school decides to make these kinds of decisions.
Otherwise, he expects the school to be met with serious criticism and opposition. “It’s a serious concern that [Ryerson] would be allowing this to happen.”
Campus Common, the new student-geared apartment complex located at Church and Gerrard Streets, opened last November.
This privately-owned building accommodates students from Ryerson, George Brown College and the University of Toronto.
Last November, the building decided to sponsor Ryerson’s rowing team, donating their amenities room to be used as a training and weight room by the team.
“It’s not cheap, but it’s reasonable,” said building manager Aytan Mammadova. Currently, there are only about 20 occupied units.
But she says that many Ryerson students have expressed interest in the building, and she thinks it will be full by September.
Zouheir Fawaz, VP Students, said that he hopes to work with the surrounding campus community to make space for students.
“Getting residence space is a huge priority for us,” he said.
“Whether we’re going to do some of it ourselves or if we do it in partnership with the neighbourhood and community, we want to provide our students with what they need on that front.”