Protecting the rights of post-secondary students is something the Ontario Municipal Board has done in Kingston and Hamilton where municipal councils have tried to disperse student voters into different wards for their own self-dealing purposes.
How the OMB, now known as the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, handles reviews of municipal ward boundaries is a fascinating area of the Tribunals jurisprudence. In this very small sliver, the OMB has served to uphold the rights of citizens with minimal political leverage.
In A Law Unto Itself: How the Ontario Municipal Board Has Developed and Applied Land-Use Planning Policy, John Chipman’s definitive examination of the OMB, Chipman notes a 1991 case involving a condo conversion in London.
The tenants were predominately students, and the OMB held public notice of the conversion was “inadequate because it was given in the summer months when the students were not in residence to receive it” (pg 66)
The application involved the conversion of 50 rental units near the University of Western Ontario and Fanshawe College. The usual tests of impact upon the affordable rental stock of the municipality were applied.
“The council of the City of London, on September 17, 1990, refused both applications for conversion on the grounds that ‘it would adversely affect the supply of rental housing in the Municipality'”
The Board’s decision to deny the conversion was based upon the affordability of the units, and stated as the reason for denial there was an “over-riding public interest” in maintaining “affordable student accommodation” and the applicant had failed to show the conversion to condos would not adversely affect the supply of affordable rental housing in London.
Of note, and the reason I took the time to find and read this ruling, is the second to last paragraph.
“As well, the board has serious reservations with regard to notice. The board is not satisfied that adequate notice was given to all the existing tenants, as it would appear that only about 10% of the existing tenants still reside in the row-housing units. No tenant appeared at the public meetings and no tenant appeared at the board hearing. The landlords knew or ought to have known that university students are normally not around during the summer months. This should have been taken into consideration by the applicants. The board is not satisfied that the tenants had an opportunity to express their views on this matter. This case is a unique and unusual situation and warrants special consideration.”
OMB rulings are not precedents, however, the now-LPAT does give past decisions weight and strives for consistency in decision making. This case is cited twice in the 90s, in other matters to discuss the Board’s approach to notice and natural justice. There is no reference to it in the CanLII database.
The ignoring of post-secondary student populations is something I’ve written on for 15 years, one of my favourite lines being one I wrote in 2010 about a politician pandering to anti-student sentiments. I stated they were not anti-student, they were pro-vote. Students don’t vote, they don’t matter was my argument.
(Sadly, that section of the publication I worked for is no longer online).
This case would’ve been an interesting one to reference in my writing back then.