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UVic student wants university to allow living in vans on campus

A University of Victoria student who lives in his van hopes to ­persuade the university to change its rules that prohibit sleeping overnight in vehicles.
Student Braedon Lowey has been living in his van at the University of Victoria. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

A University of Victoria student who lives in his van hopes to ­persuade the university to change its rules that prohibit sleeping overnight in vehicles.

When Braedon Lowey moved to Victoria in the summer of 2022 to transfer to UVic, he looked at rental costs in the city and decided that van life made more sense.

“The prospect of moving to Victoria in this type of housing market on a student budget, it just seemed unfeasible,” he said.

In Victoria, the median advertised rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,288 and $2,525 for a two-bedroom, according to the real estate website Zillow.

Lowey spent roughly $13,000 to buy a brown 1990 Ford Econoline van and to outfit it with a mini fridge, a battery operated water faucet and water tank and solar panels on the roof. Lowey has been living in the van since August 2022. “With the money that I saved on the rent, it’s largely paid for itself,” he said.

When Lowey first started living in his van in Victoria, he was choosing different spots around the city to park and sleep at night, but for most of the past year, he has been sleeping in parking lots on the university campus without any issues, he said.

Lowey was aware that there are rules against sleeping in vehicles in the campus parking lot, but it was convenient to be staying on campus and he felt a greater sense of security than sleeping on residential streets where people sometimes ­complain.

“The parking lot here is just safe, right? Like it’s a quiet area. It’s patrolled by security. And I know that crime is not going to be an issue while I’m on campus,” he said.

But recently, as he pulled into a parking lot late at night, Lowey was approached by security and told he couldn’t spend the night there.

Lowey said the security guard was kind and even suggested spots near the campus where he might be able to sleep in the van. But he’s now forced to return to rotating sleeping spots around the city.

Lowey said he’s aware of other students on campus who are living in vans and he wants to appeal to the university to change their bylaws to allow people to sleep in their vehicles in campus parking lots.

A university ­spokesperson said in a statement the ­university does not have the infrastructure to support ­overnight camping.

People trying to sleep in a vehicle overnight are asked to move on. The university said it has seen a slight increase in these instances throughout the fall.

In September, UVic offered around 2,900 student beds in on-campus housing, the ­highest number ever because of the addition of nearly 600 new spaces over the last two years, the spokesperson said.

“While these new residences have helped ease some of the pressure for student housing, we know further solutions are needed in today’s tight housing market.

“We are working closely with community and government partners to find ways to expand housing options for UVic ­students, both on campus and in the community,” the spokesperson said.

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