Housing
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

UVic set to hike student housing rates by up to 10%

A university housing survey asking students whether they would pay $2,425 a month goes viral on social media

By Michael John Lo
April 14, 2023
Housing
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

UVic set to hike student housing rates by up to 10%

A university housing survey asking students whether they would pay $2,425 a month goes viral on social media

By Michael John Lo
Apr 14, 2023
Partially constructed student complexes can be seen in this aerial photo of UVic. Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily
Partially constructed student complexes can be seen in this aerial photo of UVic. Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily
Housing
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

UVic set to hike student housing rates by up to 10%

A university housing survey asking students whether they would pay $2,425 a month goes viral on social media

By Michael John Lo
April 14, 2023
Get the news and events in Victoria, in your inbox every morning.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
UVic set to hike student housing rates by up to 10%
Partially constructed student complexes can be seen in this aerial photo of UVic. Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily

UVic is planning to increase student housing prices by 10% in September, even as student complaints of the rising costs and inaccessibility of campus housing go viral on social media. 

The proposed 10% increase to campus housing and food prices within the university’s planning and budget framework is a rate well above the allowed 2% increase for ongoing rental leases governed by the BC Tenancy Act and the average 6% menu inflation currently seen at restaurants. UVic family housing will also be increasing by 8%.The increase ranks among the highest percentage increases by BC universities for the upcoming school year.

The university is navigating a 4% budget shortfall caused by lower than expected enrolments, and has had to raise student housing fees to maintain housing commitments, according to a spokesperson. The budget framework was approved by UVic’s board of governors last month on March 28.

“Even with this increase, UVic’s fees are in the middle of the pack compared to other universities,” said a statement from a UVic spokesperson.

With these changes, along with an increase of 385 newly-built units in September, UVic is forecasting revenue from its residential service division to increase by 27.5% to $26.4 million during 2023-2024 school year, with an expected total revenue growth of just under $10 million in the next three years.

“UVic must look elsewhere if we are to increase revenues to support priority investments and enhance the student experience going forward,” the report said in relation to unfavourable enrolment forecasts. 

In a recent video that received more than 130,000 views within a day, UVic student Falyn Fryberger suggested that she would burn her degree if UVic started charging more than $900 for rent a month in response to a housing survey sent out by the university. 

Fryberger’s reaction is not just a singular voice of frustration. The video has received “a few hundred” responses from other UVic students who are feeling the same way, she said.

“Students are really, really struggling,” Fryberger said. “It’s getting to a point where we can’t afford [school] with our student loans and our jobs while we’re full time students.”

@frybergler Housing security is a serious issue for students and the way their handling this is shameful. #victoria #uvic ♬ original sound - Fal

Fryberger, a biochemistry student who works two jobs, said that she normally tries to stay away from the stressful topic of housing. But the “shocking” prices proposed in the survey—$900 to $2,425 a month for a single room on campus—prompted her to create the video, which now ranks among the top search results for UVic on TikTok.

What Fryberger is unaware of is that UVic had already begun charging students more than $900 a month to stay on campus. That threshold had already been crossed in 2021, as reported by the Martlet

It’s not unusual for an off-campus student to not have the latest campus housing rates on hand. UVic residences are largely made up of first-time renters out of high school who benefit from a first-year housing guarantee.

In a written statement, the University told Capital Daily that the prices within the survey do not reflect university plans for on-campus housing. Rather, they are a collection of current existing rental rates in Victoria and on campus.

UVic’s residence fees are decided in comparison with average rental rates in the region, as well as residential fees charged by other schools in Canada, among other factors, the statement said. 

“Our goal is always to keep our rates as low as possible, and our hope is to provide the type of housing and amenities that students want,” it added.

University cites increasingly pricey local market

Rental prices in Greater Victoria have surged at speeds not seen since 1991, with an empty two-bedroom apartment for 33% more, on average, than occupied units in the same building, as reported by Capital Daily. On average, a one-bedroom unit in a purpose-built rental would have cost just under $1,700 a month in 2022, while a new lease for a two-bedroom would be just over $2,200, or around $1,100 per room. 

A UVic student would expect to pay between $900 to $1360 a month for a single room on campus. When factoring in the meal plan—a mandatory cost for the majority of housing units outside of cluster apartments and townhouses—the monthly cost rises to over $1,700.

The university is in the midst of a large student housing expansion that will see an increase of 783 units by September, to a total of around 2,900 beds, all located on the Saanich side of the campus.

“Student housing is supposed to be one of the ways that lower income students are able to access a university education. It’s supposed to give them a leg up,” said Douglas King, executive director of Together Against Poverty Society, a legal advocacy organization on tenant rights. “It seems like the worst possible place to put an increase.” 

UVic made multiple references to Victoria’s housing crisis in its response to Capital Daily.

“Many landlords continue to take advantage of the red-hot real estate market and are selling their properties or increasing their rents,” part of the statement read.

But King questions the logic between connecting non-market subsidized student housing with changes in the private market. 

“It feels a bit greedy,” he said.

The university maintains that even with these increases, UVic’s fees are in the middle of the pack when compared to other universities.

BC universities are not subject to tenancy rules. As a result, many post-secondary students living on campus are facing larger-than-expected rent hikes, increases that would be unlawful if their landlord were not a university, as first pointed out by Fraser Valley Current. UVic had previously planned for 4% year-over-year increases to residence fees from 2019 to 2024 after a 13% residence fee hike in 2015, according to reporting from the Martlet

UVic informed Capital Daily that any increased housing revenue beyond operating costs will be used on deferred maintenance projects, such as roof upgrades and repairs to structural integrity in existing residence buildings. The increase is also needed to continue with additional housing projects and residence programming, said a statement.

But those costs shouldn’t be passed along to students, said King.

“If anyone’s responsible for that financial position, it’s the university itself. It’s certainly not the students who are living in the housing,” King said. “There’s already a huge disparity in terms of access to university, and how difficult it is for people who are low-income to access the secondary [education] system in the first place.”

In a written statement, UVic listed out additional affordability measures that are being put in place. An additional $1.5 million in scholarships for undergraduate students and a $100,000 increase in international student bursaries will be in place for September along with pre-existing support. Campus residents on the student meal plan can access a $20,000 bursary program, with the amount tripling for the 2023-2024 school year.

Housing costs part of larger student affordability crunch

Tuition fees for undergrads are continuing to rise at the maximum cap of 2% for domestic students, and a higher 6.75% for international students for the coming school year. Currently, the domestic tuition fee for most arts and sciences undergraduates is just over $6,000 while international students pay over $27,000.

International undergraduates at UVic saw tuition rates hiked by 20% in 2018 and 15% in 2019 despite widespread student opposition. International students also make up 83% of all student union food bank users, as previously reported by Capital Daily

A university-provided statement said that the university will continue to work with students and student organizations in finding solutions to affordability issues, though it had previously ignored calls to help with a $200,000 deficit at UVic’s student-run food bank, as previously reported by Capital Daily.

“Unfortunately, this really shows students what level of power they have in this with the school: what their position is, and what their role is,” King said. “It’s not a position where they have any say in it. It’s really just about what the university decides is going to be an appropriate price.”

Students are left wondering how they can afford to live and study in an increasingly unaffordable city. 

Fryberger remembers how Victoria was more affordable when she first began her studies in 2019. She believes that the university should do more in being an advocate for students. While she loves being a student at UVic, Fryberger said that the financial stress and instability of living in Victoria is starting to affect her academics.

“The university is only something because it has students. You got your profit, research, everything—but they don’t have anything unless they have us,” Fryberger said.

“At what point do they expect students to break?” she asked. “How far do they think we can go? Because it’s not much further.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story listed the eight-month residence and meal plan costs as term (four-month) costs. The table and figures in question have been corrected.

contact@capitaldaily.ca

Related News

BC government’s throne speech promises to help homebuyers and renters
Stay connected to your city with the Capital Daily newsletter.
By filling out the form above, you agree to receive emails from Capital Daily. You can unsubscribe at any time.