Finding accommodations as a student this fall may prove complicated
As we enter the third summer following the COVID-19 pandemic and as the dust seemingly begins to settle, the rental market nightmare blanketing Victoria remains. With the vacancy rate still sitting at 1 per cent, the city’s population steadily growing, and UVic’s latest student housing project not set to be fully completed until Sept. 2023, finding accommodations as a student for the fall is not looking to be any less complicated than how it has been since the pandemic started.
UVic’s new Student Housing and Dining Project has been in the works for a couple of years now, replacing old residence space with what aims to be a more sustainable and economic use of the area.
While the completion of this project will increase the amount of beds available on campus by 25 per cent, only one of the two buildings will be ready in time for September 2022. Of the 621 beds the project has promised, only 398 or so will be available this coming school year.
UVic is confident in its ability to house every first-year student who made the May 30 application deadline. About 300–400 spaces will be made available for non-first-year undergraduate students via lottery draw — as the university has done over the past two years.
Adding to the demand, pandemic regulations have relaxed, and the students who had previously chosen to defer are returning. The grim fact of the matter is that not everyone will make the lottery cut and get into UVic residence.
The first financial quarter of this year saw 23 000 people move to B.C. This, coupled with the fact that typically just over 75 per cent of UVic’s students come from outside Victoria, means that the fall is going to force a lot of students to look for a place to live at a time when vacancy is at an all-time low and rent an all-time high. As such, any non-first-year student hoping to make it into a space on campus should at the very least be looking into alternatives and fall-back options.
In a correspondence with the Martlet, the Executive Director of Student Services, Joel Lynn, stated that “while the new Student [Housing] and Dining Project brings much-needed additional student accommodation to the UVic campus, we know that the demand for safe, affordable student housing exceeds supply.”
“The university’s five-year Capital Plan recognizes the acute regional need for additional rental housing to meet student demand for on-campus living.”
Lynn went on to say that a Residence Services survey will be conducted in the fall in order to gauge the type of accommodations UVic should build going forward.
In light of the current state of affairs, UVic, in partnership with Places4Students.com, offers a suite of services to students in need of a place to live. This site’s design allows students to sublet their own places and to search for potential roommates while being partially shielded from scam attempts.
In addition to this option, Facebook pages such as “UVIC Off campus housing” and “UVIC Off-Campus Group” offer the same thing in a more student-led fashion, providing space to seek advice.
For those in need of help, RentSmart is a program that allows prospective renters to seek guidance and earn a certificate in order to possibly supplement any shortcomings they may have in terms of rental references. On July 21, UVic will also be hosting a webinar titled “Finding housing in Greater Victoria,” the first of a series of summer webinars geared towards preparing students for university life.
When it comes to searching for rental spaces independently, UVic recommends Craigslist and Used Victoria. Kijiji and PadMapper represent other solid options.
It is important to know your rights as a tenant under the Residential Tenancy Act. Understanding the essentials — the rate at which a landlord can increase your rent each year, the conditions under which they can withhold a damage deposit, as well as the rules regarding the appropriate amount of time they are legally obligated to give you before visiting your place — can be a crucial tool in your belt as a student tenant.
Familiarizing yourself with these rights can be somewhat difficult and exhausting, but it is important to remember that there is help to be found in educational resources offered by such groups as Tenants BC, a non-profit focussed on advocacy for tenants living in B.C., as well as in the tenancy act itself.
Overall, the search for housing in Victoria at the moment is a difficult one, but the important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Start your search early and use all the resources available to you. Remember your rights, and above all, don’t give up.