Students returning to the University of Victoria are expected to have trouble squeezing into the tight housing market.
University policy guarantees accommodation to all first-year students and keeps 2,200-odd spaces in campus housing to comply. But students returning after their freshman year can only apply and cross their fingers.
“There is just not enough to meet the demand for students who want to stay on campus,” said Maxwell Nicholson, community relations director for the UVic Students’ Society.
“Once you hit second, third and fourth year, you have to apply and just hope for the best.”
Official figures from UVic for 2015-16, the most recent available, cite a total student body of 21,593 of whom 18,147 are undergraduates. Of the undergraduates, 3,757 were first-year students.
UVic estimates the number of its students who come from the Victoria area to be about 30 per cent. That means more than 10,000 students could be needing a place to live next month.
Meanwhile, Victoria is dealing with one of the toughest rental-housing markets in Canada.
According to 2015 figures from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., the vacancy rate for rental apartments was 0.6 per cent, down from 2014, when it stood at 1.5 per cent. The national average was 3.3 per cent.
CMHC listed the total number of rental units in Victoria, including houses, apartments and secondary suites, at 50,836.
Joel Lynn, executive director for student services at UVic, said the university has partnered with places4students.com to help students find housing.
Otherwise, Lynn said, there is little the university administration can do in the short term.
“The rental shortage in Victoria concerns everyone,” he said. “Anybody seeking accommodation, including students, is subject to market forces.”
He said the university administration is in the preliminary stages of examining the issue, including the idea of building more on-campus housing.
Nicholson said on-campus housing would help the entire community by easing competition for rental housing.
He has heard one story of a student showing up to view a space for rent only to meet about 30 other hopeful renters, including families looking for housing.
“The more students you can house on campus, the less you will have competing in the rest of the market,” Nicholson said.
“The more students we can put on campus, the better.”