Housing cost increases see decline in quality of life for students

Students affected by housing and education costs
Students in Vancouver are affected by rising housing and education costs. Photo: Michael Letendre

Vancouver’s affordable housing shortage affects post-secondary students’ quality of life, as many struggle to make ends meet and balance school and jobs.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation states that housing costs should not exceed 30 per cent of household income to be affordable, yet half of people under 35 in Vancouver are spending more than 50 per cent of their income on housing, according to the City of Vancouver’s Task Force on Housing Affordability.

Langara science student Anna Khalina works 30 hours per week to support herself and pay for school.

She pays $600 a month in rent and considers herself fortunate to have that rate, but still struggles to juggle school and work. “With bills and with rent and with the workload, it’s hard.”

Subsidized housing waitlists are thousands long

While B.C. does have a subsidized housing program, the BC Housing website states, “Subsidized housing vacancies are limited, and many thousands of people are waiting for housing.”

The City of Vancouver has tried to create more affordable housing through projects like its Short Term Incentives for Rental Housing program (STIR), which offers developers incentives for making buildings with 100 per cent rental units. Condos for sale in South Vancouver go for up to $550,000, so developers may need convincing to build more rental units.

Despite city efforts, not much has changed

Councillor George Affleck said that programs like STIR are not creating enough affordable housing.

He cited a STIR development at 1401 Comox St., where rent is expected to cost around $1,400 per month. “I don’t see these units as being affordable,” said Affleck.

“Nothing much has changed since I was a student when it comes to affordability,” said Affleck, a former Langara journalism student. “Obviously, it’s a problem.”

Students hit by both rising education and housing costs

“It’s obviously a really precarious place to balance high housing costs with the growing cost of education, so it’s sort of a double whammy,” said Helesia Luke, co-owner of Ethos Strategy Group, a planning, research and communications firm working on public interest issues in Vancouver.

As for solutions, Luke said, “We need a national affordable housing strategy. We’re the only G8 [group of eight major industrialized nations] country that does not have one.”

Steve King, a computer science student at Langara, had to take out student loans to support himself.

“I don’t like being in debt,” said King. “I don’t think anybody does.”

Reported by Michael Letendre

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