The ongoing housing crisis in BC is putting graduate students under unimaginable stress when searching for an affordable place to live. This escalating problem has prompted your GSS and the Alliance of BC Students (ABCS) to develop an advocacy campaign called Where’s the Housing?, which was launched in September.
This campaign tackles the student housing crisis head-on by demanding the construction of student housing across BC. It calls on the provincial government to eliminate the red tape preventing post-secondary institutions from financing new student housing projects, and it calls for an investment of $18 million per year to get these projects shovel-ready faster.
“One thin strip of red tape is the only thing that is stopping universities from being able to solve the student housing crisis,” says Nicholas McGregor, GSS VP External Relations and a Director of ABCS.
“In less than two months, we have united post-secondary students across the province and collected over 1,000 signatures.”
Following the launch of the campaign, McGregor was at the BC Legislature on September 27, 2016, to join with other student leaders from across BC in demanding funding and new policy from the provincial government. Many legislators came out to show support, including John Horgan (leader of the BC NDP) and Andrew Weaver (Leader of the BC Green Party). If enacted, this proposal will expand student housing in BC by at least 20,000 additional units by 2026.
The BC government has yet to adopt this proposal, but the Union of BC Municipalities, the representative group of all municipalities in the province, has formally endorsed it with a unanimous vote at their Annual General Meeting. The motion was passed on September 30, 2016, and it read:
Whereas the Alliance of BC Students (ABCS) has identified that over the past ten years, the growth in full-time and international student populations at British Columbia post-secondary educational institutions has greatly outpaced development of new student housing spaces, forcing students to search for affordable housing off-campus in rental markets with low vacancy rates;
and whereas ABCS research indicates that if the restriction on debt were removed for the development of university residences, the business case exists to unlock over 20,000 new student housing spaces province-wide:
Therefore be it resolved that the provincial government remove the restriction on public entity debt that presently applies to British Columbia’s public post-secondary educational institutions, thereby enabling these colleges and universities to take on debt to build new student housing.
Ultimately, following our recommendations, we believe that any additional affordable housing units built in BC over the next 10 years will reduce overcrowding in the off-campus housing market, shorten the growing housing wait-lists at UBC, and help make post-secondary education more affordable and accessible for students across BC at minimal cost to the BC taxpayer.
The GSS would like to thank you for your support of this campaign and that we deeply appreciate everyone who has signed and shared this petition.
Together, we can build a brighter future for students in BC!