Visa Crunch

British Columbia: Students In Victoria Are Camping Out Full-Time During The Rental Crisis

Some students are forced to sleep in campers, and tents full-time due to the area's low vacancy rate, and high rents.

The rental housing crunch on southern Vancouver Island has led to unconventional living arrangements for some students in the area.

Victoria’s rental vacancy rate of roughly one per cent is a third of Canada’s average, while average rents in the city jumped more than 20 per cent in the past six months, according to the National Rental Ranking released on March 18.

It has led to drastic action for students like Daniel Drury, a third-year economics student at the University of Victoria, who bought a 1994 Ford Econoline van after he was unable to find accommodation last fall.

“I reached out to five different landlords or people looking for rooms to fill, and I didn’t get any responses back,” he told CBC News. “I gauged pretty quickly how challenging it was going to be to find accommodation. It wasn’t that I couldn’t afford it.”

Drury says he parks his converted camper van off-campus in Saanich overnight — as the university bans campus camping — and pays $75 a month for a daytime campus parking permit.

He says he hopes to sell the van for a profit when he’s done living in it, seeing it more as an economic opportunity than a hardship. He also says he cherishes his quiet early morning coffee, made using a propane stove.

“It’s obviously a steep learning curve initially, to learn to survive without the basic amenities of a basement suite,” he said. “Once I got into the groove of it after a month, it’s been pretty smooth.”

Jalen Codrington, a writer at the University of Victoria student newspaper The Martlet, recently published an article about the pressures many students face in finding a place to live.

He told CBC Radio he’s heard of multiple students camping. “If students can’t afford to live anywhere while they’re attending classes, it really says we’ve hit an all-time low,” he said.

University of Victoria spokesperson Denise Helm says the school knows the challenges students face “given the historical and ongoing low vacancy rate in Greater Victoria.” 

The university has 2,100 residence beds, but most are reserved for first‐year students. It’s building two new projects to house 621 students, the first due to open in September. “We know that demand for student-focused, affordable housing exceeds supply,” she said. “We also know that the lack of affordable housing is a region-wide issue.”

Helm says the university has worked with the District of Saanich on its new housing plan designed to achieve greater supply and affordability.

Local bylaws ban sleeping on streets overnight in vehicles or trailers. A spokesperson said the district “understands that many residents are struggling to find housing options that are affordable and suitable.”

Legal Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only.

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