By Spencer Turcotte
After a summer of construction at Parkside Student Residence, many students say the only noticeable growth they see are the prices.
For a standard single room and in-residence meal plan, the cost has increased from $1,125 to $1,865 per month.
Second-year Ryerson student and former resident of Parkside, Sahil Bharmal, moved out of the student residence building because he said that the skyrocketed prices did not line up with what was being offered.
“I got to a point where I decided I could afford my own bachelor apartment for a lower price, and basically be getting the same as what Parkside had to offer … the prices now are astronomical,” said Bharmal.
Parkside made headlines last September when the transformation of the previous Best Western Primrose Hotel had not been completed in time for students of Toronto colleges and universities to move in before the school year began. Knightstone Capital Management, the real estate investment and development company that owns the residence, accommodated students at their own cost in hotels in the surrounding area because of the delay. But the deed was not enough to excuse the heightened costs and complications that students faced throughout the year.
The Eyeopener previously reported on issues involving Parkside during its opening year of 2015-2016. The concerns dealt with collapsed ceilings, leaks, poor food services and ongoing disruptions with maintenance and construction.
There were many aspects of Bharmal’s time in Parkside that he said were unfavourable, one of them being an undiscussed change to his meal plan throughout this past summer.
“We paid for a full meal plan meant for the whole year, but in the summer they gave us stripped down meals. We would only get a cold breakfast and one hot meal a day, rather than three,” said Bharmal. “We didn’t sign up for these things to happen.”
He added that construction was still underway when he moved out mid-August.
Second-year Ryerson student, Kenny Choi, is a new resident in Parkside living in a standard single room. He said there is still work being done to the building.
“One problem that I have with Parkside right now, and I am sure many others living here can agree, is the maintenance work going on with the elevators,” Choi said.
“We have four elevators and over 20 floors of residences living here and the ongoing maintenance can make it a bit annoying.”
Licensed Real Estate Broker of Record, Jim Tristram, said that Parkside is not violating any rental control guidelines by hiking the prices as much as they have.
“If the building is exempt from rent controls, which this one seems to be, then there are no limits on rent increases. Whatever the market will bear.”
But according to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, the rent increase guideline for 2016 has been set at two per cent. However this guideline does not apply to Parkside since it is considered as a new building, which is any residential unit first occupied on or after Nov. 1, 1991. That is why residents of Parkside have seen an increase of about 65.8 per cent in the cost for a standard single unit since its doors first opened.
But much of the same rules still apply to new buildings. Under the Ministry of Municipal Affairs section on the Ontario government’s website, it says that landlords can only raise the cost of rent once a year, and are required to provide a 90 day written notice before any increase.
Bharmal said that Parkside management tried to convince students to renew their contract by asking them to sign a form which would confirm their commitment, and allow the returning residents to pay a lower rent than incoming residents.
Knightstone Capital spokesperson, Danny Roth, said that Parkside management began discussions with residents about rates and renewals 90 to 120 days prior to the end of their lease term.
“The renewal process is industry-standard,” said Roth. “[And] any students renewing their lease, would, as part of the standard leasing procedure, receive an executed agreement once approved.”
Nadim Moloo, a member of Parkside’s management team, also sent an email out to residents explaining the offer that would try to get students to return. If students renewed their lease before April 8, 2016, they would pay rent at a lower rate for the upcoming 2016-2017 school year.
For a standard single room the renewal rate sits at $200 lower per month than Parkside’s regular market price – this does not include HST. But, for a private single room there is only a difference of $50 each month between the renewal rate and regular market price.
Roth acknowledged that prices were lower last year since it was Parkside’s first year in operation.
“This year, we raised prices to be equal to … what we believe the market rating is for a building of this calibre.”
He also said construction is complete and that the Parkside team is pleased with how operations are running this year.
“We’re thrilled with the way the building is functioning and we think the feedback we’re getting from students is very positive,” Roth said.
But Bharmal said everything promised by the student residence seemed too good to be true, and he did not receive the accommodations he had hoped for.
“We were like their experiment,” he said.