Budget 2018 includes a commitment to building more affordable housing by investing over $1.6 billion over three years to build and maintain affordable rental housing in British Columbia. Housing costs in Vancouver are some of the least affordable in Canada, and constitute the major portion of living costs for students. It has been estimated that for students who rent a place (on-campus or off-campus) in Vancouver, housing costs are between 30% and 50% of their annual expenses. Rental costs for purpose-built rental housing in Vancouver has risen by 75% from 2001 to 2017 (Figure 1). The average monthly market rent for a purpose-built one bedroom apartment in 2017 was $1520 in downtown Vancouver, $1171 in North Burnaby, and $908 in Surrey. On-campus, a pre-existing one bedroom apartment is $843 per month. On-campus rents on UBC and SFU Burnaby campus are priced, on average, 25% below the rental market rate for those areas.
At SFU, 36% of students live away from home as of 2015. For students living outside of their parents’ home, annual costs of living are on average, 50% higher than those that live with their parents. Additionally, international students are more likely to bear higher housing costs than other undergraduate students. The number of international undergraduate students at SFU has increased from less than 900 in 2001, to close to 5,000 in 2017. Increasing housing costs could also be one of the main factors contributing to increasing student debts. Many students rely on loans and credit lines to finance their education and living expenses. According to Statistics Canada, more than half of undergraduate students complete their study with debt, averaging $26,000 at graduation, compared to an average of $13,6006 in 2005, which would only amount $16,744 in 2018 dollars. Student Aid BC and the Canadian National Loan Service currently offer a maximum monthly living allowance of $1600 for single BC students with no dependents for the 2018/2019 year. This allowance is intended to cover rent, food, local transportation, and all other miscellaneous expenses for the month. This living allowance decreases with income, the length of the program of study, and other factors.