November 22, 2018
On October 9, 2018, Jasdeep Gill (VP External Relations) and Amrita Mohar (FCAT Representative) had the opportunity to present to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services. This all-party committee is formed to hold public consultation on the upcoming provincial budget every fall following the release of the budget consultation paper by the Minister of Finance.
The following is a summary of their presentation which focused largely on recommendations to alleviate the burden of housing costs on students:
The government of British Columbia has already invested $2.15 billion for advanced education; $2 million for the new tuition waiver program for youth formerly in care; and $259 million, over the next three years, as a part of the $450 million student housing program that will create 5,000 units of student housing.
The economic value of investments made into post-secondary education cannot be discounted. By 2024, it is predicted that there will be one million job openings, with more than three-quarters of new job openings requiring more post-secondary education. Now that the province has an estimated $219 million surplus for the fiscal year of 2018-2019, the committee propose to take the following recommendations into consideration:
- Cap residence fees under market valueHousing costs in Vancouver are some of the least affordable in Canada and constitute the major portion of living costs for students. For students living outside of their parents’ home, annual costs for living are, on average, 50 percent higher than for those that live with their parents. When it comes to international students, whose population at SFU is six times larger than it was in 2001, they’re even more likely to bear higher housing costs. Thus, increasing housing costs would be one of the main factors to increase student debt.According to Statistics Canada, more than half of undergraduate students complete their studies with about $26,000 in debt at graduation, compared to debts of half the amount, $13,000, in 2005.The Province, as well as student advocacy groups, have argued that the provision of more on-campus residences and affordable housing for students would have many benefits. They would be helping students to graduate with less debt and complete their studies, contributing to freeing off-campus places, easing the existing pressure on the rental market, allowing students to live closer to where they study, reducing congestion on the overcrowded transit routes that service post-secondary institutions, encouraging students to work fewer hours while they’re in school, as well as helping to build a campus culture, which is always important.
- Providing students living off campus with a housing allowance proportional to average rental costs of the neighbourhoodBudget 2018 includes a commitment to building more affordable housing by investing over $1.6 million over three years to build and maintain affordable rental housing in British Columbia.Rental costs in neighbourhoods where Simon Fraser University campuses are located vary widely. The average monthly rent for a purpose-built one-bedroom apartment in 2017 in downtown Vancouver was $1,500. It was about $1,100 in North Burnaby and $900 in Surrey. On-campus rents on UBC and SFU Burnaby campuses are priced, on average, 25 percent below the rental market rate for those areas.StudentAid B.C. uses $1,600 as the minimum monthly living allowance for single B.C. students with no dependents for the 2018-2019 year to assess need when providing loans. This allowance is intended to cover most living expenses, including rent, and is not adjusted for neighbourhoods or area of residence.
In the U.S., the basic allowance for housing is offered to military officers and is calculated based on income and the area of residence that they live in, determined by their zip code. The purpose of this program is to provide enough funding for affordable housing at the average rental market rate. The program example could be applied to the B.C. context, where the postal code of the permanent or current address could be used to determine the housing allowance for the school year.
Read the full document here.
Transcripts of other presentations and more information on the consultation process can be found at: www.leg.bc.ca/documents-data/committees-transcripts
Any question regarding provincial lobbying can be directed at firstname.lastname@example.org.