Absentee landlords in east end Barrie put on notice by City Council

Business licence would be required for landlords who don't live on the premises

Absentee landlords who want to rent out a single-family home, a semi-detached home or a townhouse in a section of east end Barrie will need to get a business licence.

City council gave final approval to the pilot project on Monday night. It would start January 1, 2022, and last until December 31, 2024, and be bounded by Duckworth Street, Steel Street, Penetanguishene Road and the city limits on the north side of Georgian Drive in Ward 1..

Neighbourhoods in this part of the city have seen an explosion in the number of students attending Georgian College, and in turn, needing a place to live.

“We have neighbourhoods that are really suffering,” said Councillor Clare Riepma, who represents Ward 1. “We have a lot of complaints about garbage and a lot of cars, and just houses that are rundown. The whole neighbourhood ends up looking kind of rundown.”

Riepma said there are about 2,700 homes in the college area and about 600 or 700 of them are owned by absentee landlords. He said a high number of college students rent these homes.

Riepma said he introduced the licensing plan because he felt what was on the table in terms of bylaws and zoning standards wasn’t working.

He credits Georgian College for taking a proactive approach.

“In their welcome kit for students, for example, they talk about being a good tenant and how to live in the neighbourhood,” explained Riepma. “They talk about garbage, noise and parties.”

At the end of the day, Riepma feels the problem rests with the absentee landlord because “it’s his building, investment and business.”

At last week’s city council general committee meeting, councillor Sergio Morales suggested the problem in the college area was a supply issue and what was needed was more purpose-built student housing, both on and off-campus.

Riepma told Barrie 360 he did not disagree with that assertion and said the private sector needs to step up. But he added that was not going to be a solution in the immediate term.

“Even if we were to start building on the college properties, it would take four or five years before the first student moved in,” he pointed out.

In the last year, according to Riepma, the city had about 1,500 property standard complaints and half of them came from the college area.

He said what this pilot project is going to try to do is drive compliance, not punishment.

Staff would have to provide additional staffing levels and costs associated with the implementation of the pilot project, along with a licensing and inspection fee schedule, with a goal of making the pilot revenue neutral. Staff would also have to create a graduated fines schedule.

A meeting would also be scheduled between Councillors Riepma and Morales, and Mayor Jeff Lehman, as well as Georgian College president MaryLynn West-Moynes to discuss the need for more student housing on the college campus.