A University of Victoria student living in his van is calling on the administration to allow students to camp overnight on campus.
A camper van is a vehicle one might use leisurely for long road trips, but for UVic student Braedon Lowey, it’s his home.
“It’s pretty cozy,” said the fourth-year student on Friday.
Lowey moved to Victoria in the summer of 2022 to finish his bachelor’s in English, but he quickly struggled to find suitable housing.
“Affordable housing does not exist in this city,” said Lowey.
Instead, he spent $4,000 on a 1990 Ford Econoline van and spent another $9,000 renovating the inside of it. Along with a bed and small desk, the van has a built-in sink, water tank, diesel-powered heater, ceiling pan, and solar panels.
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Lowey has been living in his van for more than a year and a half in different areas around Greater Victoria, but has spent most of his time sleeping in UVic parking lots – until he was noticed by campus security a few weeks ago.
“They asked me to vacate the premises but recommended a few other spots nearby that they had seen, so it was really nice of them,” he said.
UVic’s policy prohibits overnight camping on their property and the university says it does not have the infrastructure needed to support it.
“We care deeply about this issue and are working hard to find solutions to the housing challenges in our community and the Greater Victoria area,” said the school in an emailed statement.
The student wants the school to change its policy to accommodate overnight camping, which he says is becoming a norm for many across the country.
“There are other students that do this and have done this in the past,” he said. “It’s becoming an increasingly popular option and I don’t think it would take much resources from the university to make a way for us to do it safely and legally on the university’s property.”
A new national report found the average cost of rent for a one bedroom unit in Victoria is now at $2,121 a month, which is the 12th highest average in the country.
For Lowey, his monthly costs are less than a quarter of the average rent.
“I would estimate my monthly cost to be $400 to $500.”
Lowey did try to find student housing but most of the rooms available were only for first-year students. The university says their student housing is currently at capacity.
“In September 2023, UVic offered approximately 2,900 student beds in on-campus housing – the most ever – thanks to the addition of nearly 600 new spaces over the past two years,” said the school.
Lowey says he’s meeting with the student council next week to discuss the changes he wants to see. At the moment, UVic says it doesn’t have plans to change its policy, adding that it’s working on other solutions.
“The best possible solution for our students is safe, stable and affordable housing. We are working hard to expand housing options for students on campus and in community,” said the school.