John Horgan Leader of the B.C. New Democrats
John Horgan Leader of the B.C. New Democrats
John Horgan
Leader of the B.C. New Democrats

Victoria: Students of B.C.’s post-secondary institutions encounter a major roadblock before they even start classes: finding somewhere to live.

If they are forced to look for rentals off campus, they face the worst challenges of our province’s housing crisis. In places like Metro Vancouver and Victoria, they are up against vacancy rates of less than one per cent, and sky-high rents that are out of the reach of most student budgets.

The stories we’re hearing are desperate – students are living in vehicles, in closets, or even in academic buildings. They’re competing with dozens and dozens of other applicants for rental apartments, or paying hundreds of dollars a month to rent a couch to sleep on.

Sometimes they’re even forced to out-bid each other to determine their rents.

That’s why, every year, so many students apply to live in the affordable housing provided by universities and colleges. But every year, thousands are put on waiting lists because our post-secondary institutions can’t keep up with demand.

The reason for that is simple – a destructive B.C. Liberal policy has stopped post-secondary institutions from building student housing.

Since 2003, the B.C. Liberals have refused to allow universities and colleges to take on mortgages to pay for student housing, which has made most unable to take on new housing projects.

Only one institution in the province, the University of British Columbia, has been able to build student housing in the last decade – and it too is struggling to keep up with demand, with 6,000 students on the waiting list for housing this year.

The B.C. Liberals hamstrung post-secondary institutions, and in doing so, they created chaos for students looking for a place to live. We need to fix this.

That’s why I announced this week that a New Democrat government would finally allow post-secondary institutions to finance their own student housing projects where rents cover the costs of borrowing.

New Democrats have also advocated for changes that would protect all renters – including students – from the unfair and exploitive practices that are rampant in our overheated property markets.

Renters face extraordinary instability, as unscrupulous landlords use loopholes like renovictions and fixed-term leases to raise rents above annual rent increase limits. This spring, we introduced legislation that would protect renters facing renoviction. Unfortunately, the B.C. Liberals killed it, and failed to introduce legislation of their own.

Instead of doing everything they can to help students find homes, Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals have done the opposite. They’ve made it nearly impossible for post-secondary institutions to build the affordable housing their students need.

Time and again, the B.C. Liberals promised to fix the student housing freeze they created – and time and again, they did nothing.

Today, young people trying to get an education are paying the price for that failure.