Kingston student ghetto

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The Kingston student ghetto is a residential area surrounding Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, that is inhabited mostly by students of the University. The ghetto’s borders are not clearly defined, but the core of the area is between Union Street in the south, Princess Street in the north, Barrie Street in the east, and Albert Street in the west.[1]


The name of the region where the majority of students live in is a controversial topic.[2] It is most commonly called "The Student Ghetto", but this is a disagreeable name for many people. The Alma Mater Society considers it "Offensive to those individuals in the world who live in real ghettos." The AMS attempted to rename the area "The student village" in 2006, but the name did not stick, and there were complaints by residents of the area that weren't students. Another campaign was launched in 2008 with an article in the Whig Standard by Municipal Affairs Commissioner Paul Tye, it specifically targeted to first year students. Finally in 2011, the Alma Mater Society passed a resolution through its legislative body, the AMS Assembly, to formally recognize the area as the "University District." [3] Unlike the "the student village" attempt, the recent campaign has gained more widespread acceptance leading to the City of Kingston formally recognizing the name for the area, and implementing distinct street signs officially denoting the area as the University District. [4]

Social events[edit]

bottle cap art displayed on students lawn in the Kingston student ghetto

Due to the large student population, the area is well known for being loud and active, especially on weekend nights and during the annual Homecoming celebrations. The opposite is true over holidays as most students leave the area which creates a huge demand for police patrols to discourage break and enters. During the summer months the area has a cottage feel to it as most students are gone, but the ones that remain enjoy front-porch BBQ's, games of four-square (on the famous four-square courts on William and Earl Streets) and a relaxed atmosphere.

The area has received national media attention for its street parties. Recently, the annual Aberdeen Street Homecoming Party has attracted attention due to the actions of intoxicated Queen's students during the festivities. Recent campaigns by local citizens, City Council and the University have helped to create a more relaxed atmosphere[5] although these efforts are sometimes at odds with the local police who in the past have used the event as a launch pad for bigger budgets and tougher enforcement of liquor laws.

As a result of the transient nature of the student population, their representation at City Council is usually poor, resulting in the concerns of 'permanent' residents being considered more important than those of students.[citation needed]

Property damage, alcohol abuse[edit]

Parties in recent years on Aberdeen Street have subsided by efforts from the University, AMS, City of Kingston, and police. Police detachments including mounted units have been brought in from across Ontario and Quebec in the past to keep vandalism and violence to a minimum.[6][7][8]


The majority of the houses are pre World War I era construction. Generally houses are owned by private individuals and are rented to groups of four to eight students In addition some houses are owned by a co-op, and the University itself.

Unfortunately, some of the landlords fail to maintain even basic property standards, but due to geographic location the houses are still rarely vacant, allowing some of the properties to become progressively worse. After years of complaints from students and permanent residents the City continues to fail to enforce property standards. A few years ago the Municipal Affairs Commission of the AMS started awarding Golden Cockroach awards[9] to bring the situation to the forefront. Instead, a "Key to the Ghetto" award was presented that year to Robert Reid for his positive contribution to student housing.[10] Since 2011, the Alma Mater Society has eliminated both awards in favor of the "University District Golden Key Award" to reward exceptional landlords in the area [11]

The student housing area in Kingston is large relative to those in comparable university towns; a majority of undergraduate students live either in the area itself or on its outskirts. There are numerous reasons for this:

  • Queen’s University only has enough undergraduate residences for a small number of students after first year. This may change in upcoming years, as extra spaces were created to accommodate the one-time surge in enrollment due to Ontario’s double cohort year.
  • The level of local transit infrastructure, including roads, public transit system, and on-campus parking make it impractical for thousands of students to commute every day.
  • The city of Kingston limits developers’ ability to build large apartment buildings near the city’s core; there is currently only one building that noticeably stands above the city’s skyline, which was constructed before the bylaw took effect.

In the fall of 2006 demolition began on the "Clergy Block" of the student housing area to make way for the building of the new Queen's Centre; a modern student life and athletics facility which will compliment the existing facilities located in the John Deutsch University Centre (JDUC), the Physical Education Centre (PEC) and Jock Harty Arena. The block is bordered by Division Street to the east, Clergy Street to the south, University Avenue to the west, and Earl Street to the north. The block was home to some infamous ghetto houses, notably the Barber Shop (a cinder block with porch pillars painted blue, white and red). The block also contained the historic Kingston Curling Club which has since relocated to a brand new facility in the west end of Kingston.

References and footnotes[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 44°13′51″N 76°29′44″W / 44.23083°N 76.49556°W / 44.23083; -76.49556