So summer is here and for me that means taking Lucy on lots of walks. Being a 8 lb chihuahua, the cool temperatures of the late fall through early spring drains her interest in going outside and walking the neighbourhood. But now that summer has arrived several walks per day are the norm, which has led me to taking closer look at the housing where I live.
For those unaware, my wife and I currently live in the west end of Windsor and frankly we wouldn’t mind staying in the area as we look to move from our current apartment. So as I wander the neighbourhood with Lucy I find myself looking at the houses, thinking about what is inside them, seeing how prices are misaligned with expectations and seeing how it is a community gutted by absentee landlordism. This revelation isn’t news to anyone who has been around the University in the last decade or so. Universities always attract a body of lower cost, higher density student housing. The difference between Windsor’s student housing and other communities that I have experienced (Waterloo, London) is that little effort has been to preserve or enhance the housing stock in the West End. They have defined University districts, specialized zoning and unlike Windsor, other university communities have been trending towards increasing density through knocking down former single family homes and replacing them with more efficient and profitable multi-unit dwellings.
The conversion of a single family home to a student dwelling for the most part destroys the value of the neighbourhood. It also drives families out of a neighbourhoods and replaces the property owner (generally speaking) who is looking to maximize profits and minimize costs. Unfortunately there is a challenge presented in that we don’t know which homes are owned by these landlords and rented. To my knowledge there is no rental registry in Windsor and for the same reasons Vancouver and Toronto don’t know if foreign investors are buying up their condos, we do not know if investors (local or otherwise) are buying homes in Windsor to convert to income rental properties.
This is why I decided to count rental properties on my walk with Lucy. My count obviously isn’t scientific, with my threshold for determining whether the homes were absentee landlord rental properties beings as follows:
- Did it have a for rent sign.
- Did it have clear signs of student habitation beyond a normal single family ex. numerous cars all parked in the drive way, students sitting out drinking beer.
- Was the overall property maintained to a poorer quality to other homes on the street ex. unmowed lawn/overgrown garden, couch and other furniture on the front porch.
If I had doubts about a house, I didn’t count it. I also didn’t worry about apartment buildings as I was primarily looking at the transformation of what used to be single families homes into something else and something different. So what did I find?
|Randolph – University to Wyandotte||Randolph – University to Riverside||Rankin – University to Wyandotte||Rankin- University to Riverside||Josephine – Straith Park to University|
|Number of houses||79||14||87||32||32|
|Identified as rentals||34||10||39||26||19|
|Houses for Sale||0||0||1||0||1|
That fact that greater than 40% of what were single family homes on these streets (by my crude estimate) is devastating to a neighbourhood. A 10 year study of inner city rental and homeownership rates found that for every 1 percent increase in homeownership rate translates into a $800 increase in property values in the neighbourhood.[i] Using that math, a 10% increase equals $8,000 increase in value and if that number or something like it holds true in our community $8,000 equals a 5%-10% of most homes value in the West End.
Many grand statements have been made about how to improve our city many without much in the way of local data to back them up. This post is the first of a series that will be released over this summer examining the state of Windsor’s housing stock and providing data about why things are the way they are (in my opinion) and how our community can change course.
In the meantime, I have to go walk Lucy!
[i] William M. Rohe & Leslie S. Stewart, Homeownership and Neighborhood Stability, 7 HOUSING POL’Y DEBATE 37, 66 (1996)