by Thomas Little
On September 19th, angry and frustrated students who had signed leases to live at the currently-unfinished One Columbia apartment complex took their dispute (see article, “Construction delays leave students out in the cold”, in the previous issue) directly to Schembri Property Management, Inc. in the form of a march on Schembri’s office. The march also included a number of parents and community members, as well as this Chevron writer. The march came after One Columbia tenants, upset at Schembri’s poor handling of construction delays, were denied the ability to terminate their leases with Schembri, which would have allowed them to rent elsewhere instead of being temporarily housed in hotel rooms as far away as Cambridge and Guelph.
After gathering at the corner of Columbia Street and Albert Street, the march proceeded to the Schembri office on Columbia Street, gaining participants as it went until the participants numbered about thirty-five to forty people, not including the media. The marchers went inside the Schembri office building and up the stairs to a manager’s office, where Alex Diceanu of WPIRG (Waterloo Public Interest Research Group) informed the Schembri employees of what was going on and explained the students’ grievance. One Columbia tenants also went forward to present the
manager with demand letters asking for their cash deposits to be returned to them.
After delivering the demand letters, the tenants and their supporters left the building and gathered in front of it to have their photographs taken with a Schembri rental sign. Four Waterloo Regional Police cruisers appeared, but most left after several minutes.
At all times, the march seemed well-organized and good-natured but determined. While Schembri tenants may have been able to tolerate a few days in temporary accommodations, as construction on the building drags on and midterms approach, the situation is likely to heat up. As well, the Landlord and Tenant Board hearing for the first group of Schembri students to file claims will happen today, Tuesday, September 30th. The outcome of those hearings are likely to determine how the situation unfolds and should be watched carefully.
For those interested in attending, the hearing will happen at 10:00 am on Tuesday, at the Hauser House, Waterloo Memorial Complex, 101 Father David Bauer Drive. It is accessible from campus by
a short walk through Waterloo Park, or by taking Westmount Road going south and turning onto Father David Bauer Drive.