I’ve lived in Mississauga my whole life. I was born at the hospital just down the street from UTM and donned dozens of Mississauga soccer league jerseys. With so much suburban experience, I knew when I ended up at this campus that I shouldn’t expect the big-screen, sloppy version of university. Life at UTM is tame, just like life in Mississauga.
Our residents are proud to live in one of the safest cities in Canada. Unlike smaller Ontario cities that thrive off of university life, such as Western and Guelph, Mississauga has grown in a different manner. With Square One being the extent of the city’s “downtown” scene, parents generally rest easy knowing their children are safely tucked away from the dangers of the big city.
UTM has grown with Mississauga. Each year, frosh gets rowdier, the library stacks are riddled with more students sitting on the floor, and the Tim Horton’s line gets longer. With a greater student presence, communities surrounding UTM grow wary, especially at Homestead.
Homestead is a residential area a few minutes east on Dundas Street. The compact townhouses and nearby location offer affordable and accessible housing to UTM students—a rare find and a luxury in Mississauga.
Campus residence costs more than $6,000 for the regular academic year (September through to April), and students have to move out after their last exam in December for the holiday break. At Homestead, the lodging fees are just under $5,000 for a full year. Students reap the benefits of cheaper accommodation for longer and get it free of dons and surveillance.
Over the past few years, disgruntled residents at Homestead have made complaints concerning drug trafficking, public intoxication, and noise complaints. Some of them continue to push city councillors to enforce stricter rules on lodging houses, especially the ones popular with students, and create bylaws that further limit the number of lodging houses in any given area and the number of lodgers permitted in one residence.
Fortunately, the area surrounding campus is relatively well served by public transportation. But for residential areas past in the northeast end, Mississauga Transit is a last resort. Some commutes can stretch more than an hour and require numerous transfers. If affordable housing around campus gets any scarcer, students will be forced either to pay for residence on campus or to move farther out of reach of Mississauga Transit.
The university organized administration, student union executives, and members of the police force to go door-to-door at Homestead, hear the concerns of residents, and speak on behalf of UTM students. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is a solution that will appease residents and pose as a solution for students.
A former UTMSU president took it one it one step further. Throughout his term in 2009/2010, he attended Mississauga Council meetings and appealled to councillors to avoid implementing bylaws that limit the availability of off-campus lodging houses. The efforts have since been abandoned, as far as the UTMSU agenda records are concerned.
At the moment, the voices of Homestead single-family residences are stronger in the Mississauga Council. Without proper student representation at the table, miscommunication and distrust will continue to push the student and family communities in Homestead further apart.