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Fair Access Policy Changes

Queen’s Community Housing strives to provide quality, affordable off-campus housing for Queen’s students.  To improve student access to university-owned rental units, we are implementing a series of policy changes in 2024.  These changes respond to the evolving local housing market, to escalating costs, and to historic low tenant turnover, to make the process of securing a lease for one of the units at the An Clachan Complex or John Orr Tower a more fair and accessible one, for all graduate and professional students. 

On March 6, 2024, Community Housing held a consultation meeting with the Queen’s Community Housing Residents Association, that was open to all tenants.  Presentation slides shared at the meeting are posted below.  We listened to tenant feedback about the policy changes, and as we work towards next steps, we are providing additional context and details, in response to tenant concerns and questions. 

Rent
  • Community Housing units at John Orr Tower and An Clachan currently offer one of the lowest rental rates in Kingston, with rent that is approximately 50% below current average market rents (see slide 13). 
  • Community Housing does not operate on a for-profit basis, and we are facing a growing gap between rent revenue and escalating costs. 
  • Rents for many years have increased year-over-year at the same rate as the provincially-mandated annual guideline amount, even with tenant turnover. 
  • Community Housing now requires an above-guideline rent increase to ensure long-term sustainability, and financial capacity to address increasing operational costs, make significant capital reinvestments to maintain the current buildings, and increase the housing supply at the An Clachan site (see slides 14 & 15 from the March 6 meeting and additional details further below). 
  • Rents will continue to remain well below market rates, as the university remains committed to offering quality, affordable housing for students.
  • During the March 6 consultation meeting, Community Housing was asked about future plans for rent at An Clachan and John Orr Tower.
    • At that time, we shared that we were considering that in both 2025-2026 and 2026-2027, rents would be subject to an increase by the Ontario guideline, plus 8%. After 2026-2027, we would review our operational costs and reassess.
    • In response to tenant feedback, we are considering alternative approaches for rent increases in subsequent years, as we assess costs going forward, and balance future rent increases with financial requirements  
Lease Renewals Limits
  • There is exceptionally high demand for Community Housing rental units, and we have a limited supply
  • There is significantly decreasing year-over-year turnover of available units at John Orr Tower and An Clachan, meaning the same small number of students live there for long periods of time, limiting access for others.  
  • The University wants to ensure that housing provided by the university, which is offered at rents well below market rates, is shared among as many students as possible over the course of their academic careers.  
  • Limits are necessary to achieve more equitable access to Queen’s-owned housing, such that more students have access to this housing even for some of their time at Queen’s. 
  • Lease renewals for any individual student will be subject to an overall maximum tenancy length with Community Housing of four years, which includes up to two years for a Masters student, or up to four years for a PhD student. 
  • We recognize that some students take longer than four years to complete a PhD but as previously stated, the University’s goal is to increase access to university-owned housing for more students, for even some of their years at Queen’s.   
  • To ease the impact of the new limits on current tenants, we had already planned and committed to offering current tenants at least one lease renewal (provided they continued to meet eligibility requirements), even when they have already been a tenant for four or more years. 
  • In addition, there will be consideration of exceptions to renewal limits, based on extenuating circumstances, as an ongoing practice. 
Lottery Allocation System for An Clachan and John Orr Tower Units
  • All units in these properties will be available exclusively to students in graduate and professional programs (e.g. Law, Medicine)
  • A multi-day application period will open annually in May, with dates posted and promoted in advance
  • When the application period ends, a lottery will be run, to determine who will receive a lease offer for available units; students will be advised within 5-7 business days whether they were successful in the lottery
  • This approach will provide further access to students who may be applying from abroad or have limited internet access, as well as students with dependents (whose applications take longer to complete), and individuals who require accommodations
  • A lottery will benefit all students by providing more time to complete an application and providing everyone with an equal chance of securing a unit
  • Consideration is being given to a “weighted” lottery system, to prioritize those students who demonstrate greatest financial need. More information will be posted about this in the coming months.
  • Housing in University District properties will be available exclusively to students in undergraduate programs, and will continue to be offered on a ‘first come, first access’ basis, for the unique individual properties, as they become available.
  • All units will be offered exclusively to students in Queen’s graduate and professional programs (e.g. Law, Medicine).
  • A multi-day application period will open annually in May, with dates posted and promoted in advance.
  • When the application period ends, a lottery will be run, to determine who will receive a lease offer for available units; students will be advised within 5-7 business days whether they will receive a September lease offer. 
  • A lottery will provide increased opportunity for access to Queen’s-owned housing among students who may be applying from abroad, or have limited internet access, as well as students with dependents (whose applications take longer to complete), and individuals who require accommodations. 
  • A lottery will benefit all students by providing them with more time to complete an application and an equal chance of securing a unit. 
  • During the upcoming application process in May 2024, prospective tenants will be asked to complete a survey, through Queen’s Human Rights and Equity Office (HREO), that will provide Community Housing with aggregated applicant demographic data. 
    • Current tenants will receive the HREO survey later in 2024. 
    • This data will be used to inform a potential “weighted” lottery system, to prioritize access for students in certain circumstances (eg. members of equity-deserving communities, family status, etc.), starting in 2025. 
    • More information will be shared in the coming months, and we welcome on-going feedback 

Note: Queen’s Community Housing rentals in the University District will be offered exclusively to students in undergraduate programs and will continue to be offered on a ‘first come, first access’ basis, as each unique property becomes available. 

Refined Eligibility Requirements
  • To access a Community Housing unit, a student must be an active, registered student in good standing with the University, and
    • be enrolled in an on-campus undergraduate or graduate program; and
    • maintain full-time status
  • This prioritizes university-owned housing for students who must be in Kingston, and are studying on a full-time basis, aligned with typical program duration
  • Exceptions would apply for students studying part-time due to academic accommodations.
Early Lease Termination/Elimination of Lease Assignments
  • Students wishing to end their lease early will be able to do so, upon approval from Community Housing, rather than seek another student to whom they would “assign” the remainder of their lease. 
  • This increased turnover opportunity will enable Community Housing to refresh and repair more properties on an ongoing basis and offer the unit equitably to another student through an open leasing process. 
  • This will also alleviate the need for student-tenants to find a replacement tenant and will reduce the financial pressures of paying for a unit they no longer need. 
  • Sublets will continue to be permitted, upon approval from Community Housing, where a student-tenant is temporarily away within the lease period and will be returning to reoccupy the unit.  Students accepting a sublet do so for a limited period as a sub-tenant, and therefore have no rights to a renewal lease for the unit. 
Maximizing Occupancy
  • To maximize occupancy, and house as many students as possible, the number of students or individuals living in a property or apartment must at least match the number of bedrooms in the unit. 
  • Two students could qualify for a 2-bedroom unit, as long as both students are eligible, and identified, at time of application. 
  • Students with families will continue to be able to access multi-bedroom units 
    • Students with spouses (and no dependents) would qualify for a 1-bedroom apartment 
    • Students with dependents would qualify for a 2+ bedroom. 
Access for Post-Doctoral Fellows (PDFs)
  • Recognizing the key contributions to the university’s research mission made by PDFs, and in the context of Kingston’s very low vacancy rate, a limited number of Community Housing units will be allocated to PDFs, for a maximum one-year lease, with no renewals. 
  • This would apply only to PDFs who are university employees (not those who are guests from other institutions). 
  • This aims to provide PDFs with time to familiarize themselves with the Kingston rental market before securing other off-campus housing, should they continue employment with the university. 
  • Priority for access to these units will be determined in consultation with the Faculties/Schools. 
  • We are aware there are PDFs currently living in JOT/AC; numbers are still being finalized. We do not anticipate offering any additional spaces to PDFs in 2024-25. 
Additional Housing at An Clachan
  • The university is in the early planning stages for a significant redevelopment of the An Clachan  complex 
  • A preliminary study has confirmed the potential for significantly more housing units at the site, which could quadruple Queen’s-owned housing for graduate and professional students. 
  • It will be several years before any construction could begin. 
  • Project updates will be shared as they become available. 
The Ontario Residential Tenancies Act  
  • Post-secondary institutions in Ontario are exempt from certain sections of the provincial Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) which ensures their housing is only rented to members of the institution’s student and/or staff communities. 
  • Exceptions include, but are not limited to, prohibiting lease assignments, the use of fixed-term one-year leases, and an exemption from following the provincially-mandated annual rent increase guideline. 
  • Where a tenant association exists, there is a requirement in the RTA to consult, (only) with respect to above-guideline rent increases. 
  • The Queen’s Community Housing Residents’ Association (QCHRA) formed in response to the planned changes being announced. The university expressed openness to consultation from the outset and continues to welcome dialogue and feedback with the association and with individual tenants. 
Community Housing Capital Expenditures 

More details on capital expenditures were requested during the March 6 consultation meeting:    

  • $1.8M in capital expenditures is forecast for 2023-24; $2.7M projected in 2024-25 and $2.2M in 2025-26.   

    Recent and upcoming capital projects include: 
  • John Orr Tower emergency generator, complete electrical upgrade, air handling units, compressor & exhaust fan renewal 
  • Front foyer replacements at An Clachan 
  • Accessible unit creation (1 & 2 bedroom) & supporting infrastructure upgrades (ramps, push buttons, etc.) 
  • Community Room at An Clachan 
  • Renewals to the exterior of University District properties (facades, eaves, brick and masonry) 

March 6th Consultation Meeting

The meeting began with a presentation – the slides are now posted below.

 There was extensive feedback during the session, much of it focused on concerns about the proposed rent increases for units at John Orr Tower and An Clachan above the provincial guideline, the consultation undertaken, and the planned lease renewal limits, particularly with respect to PhDs.    

We are considering all the feedback received, and we will share additional information in the coming weeks, on our website and through direct communications to tenants.   

We are getting many inquiries about when eligible tenants will be receiving their 2024-25 leases; we anticipate all leases will be distributed in early April. 

 If you have questions or comments, you can email us anytime at community.housing@queensu.ca.  

If you require an accessible format to review this document, please contact Community Housing at community.housing@queensu.ca

December 2023 Communications

Queen’s Community Housing received a letter regarding concerns about the Fair Access Policy changes by the newly formed “Queen’s Community Housing Resident’s Association”. Please click here to review the original letter sent to Community Housing. Below is a downloadable public response to their letter and specific concerns;

Please contact Community Housing at community.housing@queensu.ca for any questions or concerns.