BC Budget sets aside $450 million for student housing

CSU and Capilano University view budget announcement favourably

Christine Beyleveldt // News Editor

The NDP government released the provincial budget for the 2018 fiscal year on Feb. 20 that both Capilano University and the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) have commended for committing funds to improving the lives of students.

The BC budget includes a $50 million investment to preserve and revitalize Indigenous languages and a further $30 million to be redirected to an Indigenous Skills Training Development Fund over the next three years. Also reconfirmed was the September 2017 decision to remove fees from Adult Basic Education and English Second Language programs, which CapU removed at the start of the 2017-18 academic year.

The budget also made provisions for affordable childcare to the tune of over $1 billion that is expected to create 22,000 childcare spaces throughout the province. “If you’re earning under $40,000 in BC going forward you’re going to pay almost nothing for childcare,” said CSU Vice President External Noah Berson. He expects this will affect mature students and student parents enrolled at CapU, many of whom he suggests will have more disposable income not going towards exorbitant childcare costs. “So I think it’s going to be really beneficial not just for students currently but for folks in the community looking to come back to school,” he said.

Most notably, $450 million has been set aside specifically for the creation of on-campus student housing province-wide. Over the next three years, $259 million of that sum will become available to enable public post-secondary institutions to borrow. A previous ruling by the Liberal government that prevented institutions from taking on debt to prop up student housing projects was also overturned, which the University appreciates, as was reported in a press release put out one week after the budget was announced.

“I think the budget is a massive win, I think it’s the biggest investment we’ve seen in students in the last 25 years,” said Berson. The last win he referred to was the tuition freeze imposed in the 1990s and subsequently lifted in the early 2000s. “It’s something that the Capilano Students’ Union and the Alliance of BC Students has been lobbying on for a long time on campus housing, and so seeing almost half a billion dollars in the budget for that is a massive win not only for Capilano students but for students across the region.”

In October, Berson and four other board members from the CSU went to Victoria to lobby politicians on the issue of student housing. This concern was brought up by students years ago that the CSU turned into a campaign, “Where’s the Housing?”, in 2014. Lobby Days, organized by the Alliance of BC Students (ABCS) enabled the CSU to speak one-on-one with politicians on several matters, including housing.

“We have students taking up the lowest status of housing, not allowing other people of low income to move into this housing market, so when we present an issue like this that really manages to solve two issues with one solution, government likes that,” said Berson.

Furthermore, Berson stressed that CapU’s sense of community could be affected by enabled student housing. “It’s been shown time and time again you get better campus life, better campus community,” he said. CapU is by and large a commuter school despite having a residence located off-campus and an agreement with real estate development company Woodbridge Northwest Communities for an on-campus residence building, which construction could start on as soon as this fall.

“It’s been really amazing to see something that we’ve worked towards – again, something that we identified as an issue in 2014, adapted a campaign, rebranded it to be focused [on] the housing crisis, and here we are with a massive half a billion dollar win,” added Berson. It won’t be just students who are affected. In a study released in 2016 the ABCS found that sufficient housing for post-secondary students in Metro Vancouver alone could free up 13,000 rental units.

Retraction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the budget was released on Feb. 13 and that the university’s official comments were released two weeks later. These have since been updated for accuracy. 

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