With only a week to go until classes resume at the University of Victoria, some students are using social media to complain about the lack of available rental housing — and they say the school is doing little to help in a time of unprecedented demand.
Unpacking their kitchen supplies, Eli Wood and his roommates feel lucky they found their $3,000 a month basement apartment earlier this summer.
“We had the advantage of having people in Victoria go to open houses. And that really does give you an edge,” Wood said.
Trying to find a place to rent is an annual challenge for UVic students.
Earlier this summer, first-year engineering student Noah Wessels found a place off-campus that he’s renting with his sister.
“We didn’t even try looking on-campus. Just looking for places near campus,” he said.
There is a crush of students looking for housing due to a number of factors including the COVID-19 pandemic, and a lack of on-campus housing.
The university has announced a $200-million project that will provide almost 800 beds for students, but it’s still two years away from completion.
The majority of UVic’s 20,000 students are from outside Greater Victoria, a region with one of Canada’s lowest vacancy rates.
Abby Wessels said she has friends who have not found an apartment and are sleeping on couches.
“My friends are making jokes about who is going to be homeless this year. As a joke, but it’s not really a joke.”
It’s no joking matter to the students posting about their apartment-hunting experiences on social media.
The Instagram account tentlife2021 lists posts from students who can’t find a place with less than a week before classes start.
Wood says he and other students created the account to draw attention to the housing crisis on campus.
“I don’t know the extent that that will happen. but we’ve just seen an influx of people on pages like Reddit, and other online forums looking up, ‘How do I survive in my car?'”
A Reddit thread lists posts from UVic students frustrated in their apartment hunting.
So far more there are more than 1,000 signatures on a petition calling on UVic to help students with their housing needs on the tentlife2021 Instagram page.
WATCH: UVic students scrambling to find housing one month before new school year
While the University of Victoria could not make anyone available for an on-camera interview, it issued a statement regarding the current housing situation.
“Before we began accepting on-campus housing applications in February this year, UVic made the difficult decision to replace our usual first-year housing guarantee with a first-year housing priority lottery,” the university said.
“This decision was made in response to the need for flexibility to respond to the rapidly changing COVID-19 public health guidelines as well as uncertainly around the demand for on-campus housing. A lottery system was the best possible way to ensure equitable and fair access to housing in this unusual year.”
UVic said first-year students were notified during the admission process that on-campus housing was not guaranteed for fall 2021 due to the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students applying for on-campus housing in February were also notified.
“It’s important to note that we will continue to make offers as rooms become available or remain vacant after move-in day,” the university said.
It pointed to resources available online to assist students in finding off-campus accomodations and roommates.