A new report to Toronto’s licensing and standards committee recommends more rigorous scrutiny of fraternity and sorority houses, which would require operators to annually prove the status of their properties. Currently, they enjoy a largely unmonitored exemption to the city’s rooming house by-law.
Toronto’s executive committee instructed city staff to consult with stakeholders and prepare the report to address the concentration of fraternity and sorority houses in residential neighbourhoods near the University of Toronto’s St. George campus. Privately operated rooming houses in this part of the city must be licensed and are regularly inspected to ensure compliance with fire, safety, public health and property standards regulations, while similar accommodations affiliated with nationally or internationally chartered student fraternity/sorority and cooperative students’ residences are exempt from licensing requirements.
“Proof of this status is not required,” the staff report notes. “Concerns have been raised by neighbours about these properties relating to issues of noise and property maintenance, garbage and behaviour.”
The city review found that complaints have been lodged concerning 15 of the 19 such houses currently accommodating students. An average of 32 complaints per year were registered in the period of 2013 to 2017, resulting in 12 orders issued against the properties.
The report does not recommended revoking fraternity/sorority house exemptions, but, rather, calls for annual confirmation that properties qualify as fraternities/sororities along with “proactive outreach and education sessions” related to health, safety, noise and property maintenance. Operators of the houses would have to submit proof of active membership in a chartered fraternity or sorority, and proof that at least three of the student residents are officially enrolled in the organization. Contact information would also have to be filed with the city.
If they receive committee approval, the recommendations will go to the Toronto Council meeting at the end of this month. A homeowners’ group in the neighbourhood where many of the fraternity/sorority houses are located and the University of Toronto have endorsed the staff proposals.
“These new requirements do not, by themselves, provide any solace to the community as to anti-social activities and property maintenance, but they do give the community a way of holding some entity to account. Also, police and by-law enforcement officers will have proper contact information,” states a submission from the Annex Residents’ Association.
“The University of Toronto does not recognize or have any relationship with fraternities and sororities. That said, we share the local community’s desire for safe livable neighbourhoods and are particularly cognizant of the safety of U of T students and willing to support any measure to help ensure that safety,” states U of T president, Meric Gertler.