Alliance of BC Students fights for more student housing

Image via Thinkstock
Image via Thinkstock

Additional student housing could ease rental crisis

By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor

The Alliance of BC Students (ABCS) is looking to the provincial government to provide more funding for student housing.

With the exception of UBC, there have been no new student residences built since 2006. Other post-secondary institutions with housing, such as SFU and BCIT, cannot afford to build enough student housing to meet the demand. As a result, students often need to stay at home for longer, pay rents they can barely afford, live in overcrowded residences with a large number of roommates, or—in some cases—end up homeless.

The ABCS has created a document called the White Paper on Student Housing, which outlines the current problems and gives some potential solutions to the student housing crisis. According to the document, if the provincial government were to put $18 million annually towards student housing for the next 10 years, it could open up 21,300 residences for the general public that are currently occupied by students. Of those residences, 13,500 are in the Lower Mainland, 4,200 are in the Victoria/Saanich area, 2,500 are in Kelowna, and 450 are in the Fraser Valley.

There is an untapped potential to house students closer to their campuses, according to the document. UBC currently can house 28 per cent of its full time students, but Simon Fraser can only support eight per cent, while BCIT can only support two per cent. Any other Metro Vancouver institution cannot host full-time students, but could have the potential to. For example, if student housing was built near Douglas College, there is potential to house at least 909 full-time students.

The White Paper also lists other benefits to additional student housing, including public transportation. As it stands, 8 out of 10 of the most overcrowded bus routes in metro Vancouver are those that service a post-secondary institution.

However, post-secondary institutions are not allowed to take on debt. Since building student housing would involve taking on an initial debt, it is impossible for any institution besides UBC to progress with their student housing. The White Paper suggests that the restriction be removed, and that the provincial government should be responsible for 10 per cent of student housing costs until then.

“We know they’ve got plenty of money for housing and they need to do something about this,” says ABCS Chair, Alex McGowan, to 24 Hours.

The BC NDP and BC Green Party are supporting the efforts of the ABCS. Municipal politicians, such as Saanich councillor Fred Haynes, are also in support. Haynes is continuing the student housing discussion, mentioning the students concerns at a recent Union of BC Municipalities meeting.

There has been no response from the BC Liberals.