On the same day the province announced a $500 million commitment to affordable housing, Coun. Fred Haynes approached Saanich council with a call to action for additional housing at colleges and universities.
Haynes’s report on Monday suggested sending a letter to the premier, and to the ministers responsible for housing and finance, asking to remove the barriers which are stopping provincial post-secondary institutions from building new on-campus student housing.
Haynes said the University of Victoria has the capital reserves ready to build student housing, and while Camosun College doesn’t, it, like UVic, has a desire to build a residence. He also requested a meeting with the premier and her ministers to discuss the matter.
“We know the problem is one of debt,” Haynes said. “We need policy rewritten that a university in B.C. can borrow money without it reflecting as a provincial debt.”
It’s an easy solution that brings relief to the pressures of the housing market and the 0.6 per cent vacancy rate in Saanich, Haynes added.
For now, the province’s $500 million announcement is said to be mostly for affordable housing, as well as built-in partnership with non-profits, local governments, other organizations and the private sector. Haynes is hoping organizations could include post-secondary schools.
In the same report, Haynes also suggested sending copies of the letter to the University of Victoria, Camosun College, the mayors of Oak Bay and Victoria, the Capital Regional District chair and local MLAs.
Council voted in favour of sending out the letters, despite some skepticism.
“If UVic wants this why don’t they come to us and ask for our support? I don’t see them here,” said Coun. Judy Brownoff.
Meanwhile, the same thing happened at Oak Bay’s council on Monday.
Oak Bay’s UVic liaison, Coun. Tom Croft, brought the letter to the table, gaining council approval. Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen will pen the same letter to the same offices.
Croft said it was easy to bring Haynes’ motion to Oak Bay, not just because Oak Bay and Saanich share the UVic campus.
“We have a housing crisis everywhere,” he said. “People in many ways are being taken advantage of by landlords.”
Oak Bay shut down a home in Henderson that housed nine students this year after the tenants themselves complained, Croft said.
– With files from Christine van Reeuwyk