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Party’s over: Frats may lose rooming house exemption

June 8th, 2010 · 7 Comments

By Jacob Arnfield

Is there a difference between a fraternity and a rooming house?

Historically, municipalities with rooming house laws say yes. When Toronto’s rooming house legislation was first instituted, fraternity and sorority houses were exempted, but this is not likely to be the case for much longer.

Earlier this year, Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina), passed a bill through Planning and Growth to remove the exemption. Because of a bureaucratic error, the bylaw revisal never made it to city council, and has yet to be fully enacted as law. Vaughan disagreed with the original exemption, which he said was made by a previous councillor who thought he was doing students a favour by not regulating fraternities and sororities.

The fact that the law has yet been passed did not stop Vaughan from discussing the alterations as if they had already been enacted. “We’ve stripped them of that exemption and they are now to be regulated as licensed rooming houses and will have to come forward and comply with all the bylaws,” said Vaughan, citing a need for increased regulation of fraternity housing property standards and fire safety.

Beyond ensuring a safer environment in fraternities, and providing their parents with an increased sense of security, the removal of the exemption is also aimed at curtailing what Vaughan says is some of the worst frat boy behaviour. “They’re going to have behave themselves like adults, or at least like teenagers, or maybe like 12 year-olds, but they can’t act like 8 year-olds and disturb and destroy and violate virtually every bylaw in the city,” said Vaughan.

When asked whether this change was necessary, Vaughan listed some of the worst recent offences. “I had a fraternity house in the ward that got a half-dozen pig heads and stuck them on spits and left them out over a long weekend during the summer. I’ve had park benches stolen and put on frat property. I’ve had parties and beer kegs and people shooting flaming balls out of windows.”

Vaughan said the fraternity and sorority houses have been notified.

Dovi Henry, a sociology and philosophy student responsible for public relations for his fraternity, Delta Upsilon (182 St. George St.), had not heard about the proposed changes that would affect his house. “It sounds pretty fishy,” he said.

When the Gleaner met him at his frat house and explained what Vaughan was proposing, he did not agree with the changes. He said his brothers understand they live in a residential neighbourhood, and make an effort to be good neighbours. Henry said at his fraternity will soundproof the house for large parties, and if an issue arises they are willing to alter their behaviour when approached by neighbours.

“Complain to us, you know. Come to me and say ‘Look, you’re having parties, you’re loud. I don’t like it.’ Don’t go to the government. Come to us at first at least,” Henry said.

He said there are significant differences between a rooming house and a fraternity. To start, the fraternity owns the property, which creates a different dynamic between landlord and tenant than a regular rooming house. Also, Henry said the communal relationship between fraternity brothers makes living in a frat house a different prospect than living in a rooming house.

“We’re just a group of friends who have an awesome mansion that we all hang out in basically,” he said. “If we were a rooming house, we’d all be here to live here, and that’s pretty much the extent of it.” He continued to say he felt the communal nature of their living arrangements were both the cause of the councillor’s ire, and the reason they should be exempted. They live in and maintain their house and conduct various fraternity activities together. That relationship, working together as a group body living in a shared space, is different from a collection of individual renters and makes licensing and supervision unnecessary, he said.

When asked about who is in charge of managing the property, Henry said the brothers vote two to three times a year to elect a property manager from their brothers.

An additional concern for local residents is non-fraternity members who live in fraternity houses, particularly in the summer time when school is recessed. Frank Cunningham lives near two frat houses at St. George Street and Lowther Avenue, and said during the year when he has a complaint he will approach the house directly. But, during the summer the people who choose to live in these houses are not as amenable to their neighbour’s concerns. Henry confirmed that his fraternity does rent rooms to non-fraternity members.

Cunningham supports the change. He said he is not as upset by fraternity house behaviours as others in his area. He understood the fraternity’s concerns about the need to be licensed, but said: “they can’t have it both ways and say, ‘You can’t apply rooming house laws ‘Cause we’re something different’ and then rent out as a rooming house.”

Tags: News · General

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Tyler Haggerty // Jul 15, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    I am the current president of my fraternity and the outgoing president of the University of Toronto Fraternity and Sorority Council and I want to say that Adam Vaughan is lying when he says that the fraternities have been notified. I nor anyone from the building holding corporation, alumni association, or the national council of my fraternity have received anything regarding this change. Only through this article and word of mouth in the past few days have any of the Greek Letter Organizations found out about this change to the by-laws. This has been in the works for at least 6 months. That amount of time should have been ample time to inform all the fraternities and sororities of the changes and thus given time to comply with the new requirements but this has not happened. It is obvious from his commentary that Counselor Vaughan does not like fraternities in the Annex and it seems that he is trying to pass this bylaw candidly right before the school year starts. Adam Vaughan must follow protocol and procedure before he can make any amendments to the bylaws, which, due to a so-called “bureaucratic error”, has not happened. I agree that not all fraternities are exemplary model adults but the few that cause the problems should be held responsible rather than trying to eradicate all of the 20+ houses in the area. If this bylaw is passed several hundred U of T and Ryerson students will be put to the curb.

  • 2 Mark Goldstein // Jul 16, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    I find it interesting that nobody complained about said “frat” boys when entire chapters enlisted for military service with our Canadian Forces in both World Wars this past century. A Toronto based “frat boy” wrote the poem In Flanders Fields. Go to Soldier’s Tower at the University of Toronto and many of the names of those who fell are “frat boys.” Generalizing an entire community based on a few negligable incidents is institutionalized discrimination, something our forefathers fought so hard against so we can enjoy the standard of living we do today.

  • 3 Daryl C. Collison // Jul 22, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    Obviously Mr. Vaughan has never been the member of a fraternity. Were he, he would realize that there is more to a fraternal organization than the frat boy mentality that he is claiming is so upsetting to life in the Annex.

    I was a member of the class of 1986 at Canada’s National Fraternity, Phi Kappa Pi. I forged lifelong friendships and learned the foundation of living away from home whilst I shared a beautiful home with a number of like minded young men. Granted there was some partying that went on, but also EVERY man I went through that house with graduated and went on to become hard working productive members of society.

    Recently, through a few bad decisions and an economic downturn, I was left with the need of a place to live. Luckily I was able to lean on the shoulders of my new brothers and they provided me with a roof over my head so that I could get back in shape and find my footing. Had my new brothers not been available to me, I do not know what might have become of me.

    Fraternities are more than party houses. They help to teach new groups of young men skills and basic tenements of life when they leave home. And sharing that experience with a number of men serves to strengthen them and provide a foundation for the hard academic road ahead and then the highway of life.

    I would ask before Adam Vaughan decides to ruin what has been mostly a personal growth organization over the decades with a much UNdeserved smack in the face, that he talk with a few ‘newbies’ and a couple legacies and see what fraternal living is all about.

  • 4 Seamus Murphy // Jul 22, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    I want to agree with what is posted above. I wouldnt rehash the above arguements made by Brother Tyler. But I will pose a question. I have seen alot of student houses where a batch of students rent property. These student houses are run alot worse then what a frat house is. So why not ban these too.

  • 5 Tyler Steel // Jul 23, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    So what is the heart of the issue, that Frat Houses rent out to non-members but are not considered rooming houses and how will changing a Fraternity house to a rooming house help Police to deal with unruly persons?
    Or is this new bylaw, which was never advised to my knowledge to any Fraternity in the Greater Toronto Area, aimed at curbing behaviour that existed in the 70’s and 80’s where it was the actions of a person, not a group?
    For fire code complaince, has anyone verified with the Fire Marshall’s office to the strict regulations they place on Fraternity houses already and what they have done to comply with the Fire Marshall’s orders so they don’t get fined or force to be closed?
    Councilor Vaughan, I am confused as to the specific reasons why and can you provide more details please, a lot of us are in the dark on this one here.

  • 6 Mark Morency // Aug 11, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Someone above said “Obviously Mr. Vaughan has never been the member of a fraternity. ” How could he have been? He’s never been to university. Adam Vaughan operates this way and has done the same thing to businesses and groups that he doesn’t like by abusing every code he can think of as an excuse to change the rules, then claims that people who were never advised knew about it in advance. He did the same thing with condo owners over the G20, holding meetings without advising residents, then claiming everybody present was on his side. He has told businesses that apply for various licenses and variations that they can do it, then after they spend in some cases I spoke to, $100,000 to prepare, one hour before it goes to committee, a “complaint” magically shows up. Make sure you do something about this on October 25. Vote Adam Vaughan out. Vote for Mike Yen, and he will do what he can to get this decision reversed.

  • 7 Sororities and fraternities targeted by Vaughan | One Stop News Stand // Feb 8, 2011 at 6:51 am

    […] Vaughan, Councillor of Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina, spearheaded the changes last June, citing noise complaints about frat houses lining Prince Arthur Avenue, a street otherwise filled […]