Greater Victoria has been facing a housing affordability crisis for years. Finding affordable housing both on and off-campus is becoming increasingly difficult for post-secondary students, leading to detrimental impacts on students’ studies, health, and wellbeing (VIPIRG, 2017).
Students who live on-campus are not protected by the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA), resulting in post-secondary institutions increasing housing costs beyond reasonable means. Between 2016 and 2020, UVic on-campus costs have increased nearly 20% — and student incomes have lagged behind. Annual increases in on-campus housing costs at UVic have exceeded the rate of inflation each year (including the CPI for housing cost increases), and have averaged an annual 4.6% over this period.
Securing off-campus housing in Greater Victoria is also increasingly challenging for students in terms of both availability and affordability. Rental vacancy rates in Victoria have been hovering at or below 1% for many years. The average cost of rent has been continually increasing as well, making Victoria one of the most expensive places to live in Canada (Depner, 2019). It is increasingly difficult to afford to live in Victoria, particularly as a student living on a low income.
Some important actions have come from the BC government to help protect renters: a rent freeze until the end of 2021, and some measures to prevent tenants being displaced from their homes due to illegal renovictions.
UVSS Director of Campaigns, Robin, has also been advocating to Oak Bay Council to increase the supply of housing options for students by legalizing secondary suites, and increasing the occupancy limit for the number of unrelated roommates (currently limited to three).
- Read the UVSS submission to Oak Bay Council re: secondary suites
- Read Robin’s letter to the editor in the Times Colonist (“Oak Bay should ease occupancy limits,” June 23, 2021)
Students living in UVic residence are not protected under the BC Residential Tenancy Act. The UVSS is working with BC student unions such as the AMS of UBC to fight for student housing legislation that effectively meets the needs of students.
The UVSS submitted a report to the BC Government in December 2020 recommending the Province take the following actions to address the lack of housing affordability that students face:
- Increase the supply of a variety of social and non-profit housing options, including co-ops;
- Offer rent-debt forgiveness for those who were unable to make rent due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic;
- Enact protections for students living in residence by capping student housing cost increases at the rate of inflation through 2021 onward; and
- As a short term goal, ensure that students living in residence are eligible for the income-tested $400.00 renter’s rebate program; and
- As a long term goal, increase the renters rebate to an amount that will ensure households are not required to spend more than the 30% threshold of their income on sheltering costs.
- The UVSS successfully advocated to change an outdated, discriminatory bylaw in the District of Saanich that prevented more than four unrelated people from living in the same dwelling. Roommate accommodations are one of the ways students try to make the cost of housing more affordable. Living with roommates should not be illegal. The UVSS was instrumental in advocating to change this bylaw in 2020.
- The UVSS submitted recommendations to the City of Victoria’s budget townhall, relating to affordable housing and more. Watch the video submission!
Become a housing advocate!
Community Residents Associations
Community Associations, sometimes called Residents Associations, are non-profit community organizations where residents of neighbourhoods can come together to make change. Renters, and especially students, are often underrepresented in these organizations. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved in your local residents association!
With 13 different municipalities in Greater Victoria, and various neighbourhoods and Community Associations within each one of those, it can be hard to know which neighbourhood you’re in or how to get involved. The following will try to help guide you to figuring out your local Community Association. Please get in touch if you have any further questions!
Resources for Renters
- BC Residential Tenancy Act – legally regulates the relationship between landlords and tenants in BC
- BC Residential Tenancies Branch – formal dispute resolution
- Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre (TRAC) – plain language legal education and representation
- Together Against Poverty Society (TAPS) – free legal advocacy and help navigating residential disputes
- Victoria Tenant Action Group (VTAG) – an organization for and by anyone that does not own their own home
- RentSmart shares information on how to maintain a good relationship with your landlord and community