Town hall puts focus on housing affordability

B.C. Green Party leader will be joined by housing advocates at Tuesday's town hall at Camosun College

  • Oct. 14, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Oak Bay – Gordon Head MLA Andrew Weaver will be joined by four expert panelists for a town hall on housing and affordability Oct. 18 at Camosun College’s Lansdowne campus.

The B.C. Green Party leader will be joined by community housing advocate Cairine Green, Alex McGowan, chair of the B.C. Association of Students, Victoria Real Estate Board director Kyle Kerr, and Eric Swanson, executive director of Generation Squeeze.

“Each speaker comes from a different housing-related background, so they’ll be able to bring a diverse range of perspectives and considerations to our discussion about the complex and multifaceted challenges facing our housing market,” said Weaver.

“Over the course of the evening we’ll discuss the policy and market conditions that have led to our current situation, analyze the immediate challenges we are facing, and delve into where we can go from here. We’ll explore what can be done now to increase housing and rental stock, and how we can prepare for the future.”

The B.C. Association of Students recently released a report on the influence student housing demands have on a housing market in crisis. They are urging the B.C. government to amend existing restrictions on public entity debt that are preventing post-secondary institutions from building more on-campus residences.

“We know that as students, we often occupy the low end of the rental spectrum. What we might not realize is who we may be squeezing out of the market altogether,” said McGowan. “Getting students on campus and out of the rental market helps everyone, including the single parent struggling to find housing, the minimum wage worker who can’t find rental they can afford, and those who are currently in housing, but spending more than 50 per cent of their income on rent.”

Weaver said the desire to protect the province’s high credit rating is preventing post-secondary institutions from taking on debt to construct more campus housing.

“While that is indeed important, debt undertaken to build campus housing in B.C.’s desperate market would not impact the government’s credit rating as it would be entirely self-supporting through residence fees,” he said.

Weaver points out the number of full-time students in B.C. has steadily grown over the past 10 years, while the number of international students has nearly doubled, yet very few new residence spaces have opened.

In 2014/2015 there were 10,900 students on waitlists for campus housing in B.C., nearly 3,000 of which were on the UVic list alone. UVic has 2,481 residence spaces and in 2014 had 16,649 full-time students.

The town hall is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 18  from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Gibson Auditorium at Camosun College (Lansdowne campus Young Building 216).