With the new school year just weeks away, some University of Victoria students are ready to hit the panic button as many from out of town are struggling to find housing and the problem is so severe, some students may have to put school off until next year.
“It’s almost impossible to find a place right now,” said Rachel Jantzen, a third year student at the University of Victoria.
She started looking for housing in early June and weeks later, she’s still digging.
“I reload the page for all these ads every 15-20 minutes and you have to message them instantly in order to get a response. And the few times that I have gotten a response and organized a viewing, they’ve all cancelled on me and said ‘sorry, I’ve found someone already,’ and I’m like, ‘it’s only been a day since you posted it,'” she said.
With the high demand and low vacancy rate, Jantzen also noticed prices have skyrocketed this year.
Some bachelor suites are being listed for more than $1,500 and some one-bedroom apartments are being listed for about $2,000.
“I don’t know a single student who can afford that much,” Jantzen said.
She’s not the only one still on the hunt.
The University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) said many students are feeling stressed and frustrated over the tight rental market.
“Greater Victoria has been in a housing crisis for the last several years. This year, it’s much more pronounced because we do have so many students coming back to campus — almost a double cohort,” said Robin Pollard, the organization’s director of campaigns and community relations.
She said UVSS is working towards changing restrictive bylaws and policies that prevent students from being able to rent out more housing units in the region as well as tackling the stigma of renting to students.
“Don’t be afraid to rent to students. We’re often very respectful. We’re here to set down roots, to really work towards out degrees, to be functioning members of the community,” Pollard said.
The university said it has had to change the way it decides who gets first dibs for its rooms.
According to Karen Johnston, UVic’s associate director, the university offers more than 2,100 beds, with more than 90 per cent reserved for first-year students.
She said UVic typically attracts about 76 per cent of its students from outside the Victoria region, and within the context of the ongoing pandemic, “it was difficult to know how many students would be interested in travel to Victoria and living on the UVic campus this September.”
“As such, we did not change our admissions cut-offs from the previous year,” she added.
This year, the university replaced its usual first-year housing guarantee with a first-year housing priority lottery which Johnston says “ensures equitable and fair access to housing in this unusual year.”
She explained that first-year students were notified of this change and were reminded again in February through the online portal.
Lisa Edwards’ daughter was one of the lucky students who were picked in the lottery.
“We knew upon application that there was no guarantee and starting putting out some feelers in case we weren’t lucky,” she told CHEK News via email.
“I know people are frustrated but I feel that if people really read the correspondence from UVic before even applying for residence, they shouldn’t be shocked. Upset and disappointed for sure but not ‘in the dark.’ Others are frustrated [the university] accepted applications in excess of rooms, but that’s how a lottery works,” she added. “Life is full of moments like this. Young adults need to weather ups and downs.”
The university also extended its deferral deadline from Aug. 1 to Aug. 6 to allow students more time to decide if they want to come to UVic in 2022 instead.
Two new buildings are currently under construction — one is set to open September 2022 and the second September 2023.
According to UVic, the buildings combined “will provide home for another 783 students,” but construction now means a loss of 162 beds for this upcoming school year.