The province-wide housing shortage has made no exception for Selkirk College students who are already reportedly scrambling to find affordable accommodations for the 2023/24 school year.
The Central Kootenay region is one of many in the province dealing with a housing crunch, according to the Canadian Rental Housing index which has the region listed as one of ten with ‘severely unaffordable’ rental costs.
With the increasing cost of living and accommodation rates some post-secondary students are reportedly forced to work up to three jobs, on top of their studies, to cover the basic costs of living.
As a way to help, Selkirk College is leaning on the community with their housing initiative that asks residents to consider renting spare rooms to post-secondary students for the school year.
Brier Albano, the vice president of student success with the college describes the initiative as mutually beneficial.
“We know that with the cost of inflation, people are looking at different ways to make money and make things easier on themselves,” she said.
“Renting a room to a student is a fantastic way to mutually benefit. The student is able to find a place to live and the community member has the opportunity to make a little bit of extra money that may support some of the challenges that they’re seeing because of the inflation cost increases as well.”
Albano says that enrollment rates are lower than usual this year, which she explains could be the result of the housing shortage and current cost of living in the region. She says the institution has already had students withdraw from programs after arriving and being unable to find a place to live.
She explained that the college is working on new housing projects to increase the number of beds available on campus, but housing projects take time and won’t provide any relief till the new year.
The college has also increased its support services for students suffering with additional mental health disorders due to unexpected stressors associated with inflation, but Albano says the institution can only do so much to help its students navigate the country-wide issue.
“We have increased our counseling service and we’ve implemented an on-campus committee that’s going to look at other alternatives or other community groups that we may be able to work with but it’s all very reactive because this is a British Columbia problem, and we all need to work together. It’s a very difficult situation because we’re seeing our students get caught up in this country-wide challenge.”
Mahindra Tumar, treasurer of Selkirk’s student union and an international student entering his final year of social work, is one of the many people affected by the housing shortage and rate of inflation. Tumar says he works two jobs on top of his studies to cover his basic costs.
“I work two jobs just to handle my cost of living. I pay $2,500 rent without utilities every month and that is the problem here. On the first day of classes I worked a 10-hour night shift and had class at 9 a.m. So it’s understandable how that can be very difficult for myself, but also for students who just got here, who don’t know where to go, or what path to choose.”
Tumar explained an additional concern he’s heard from students this year surrounding transportation.
He says last year, Selkirk and the student union reached out to BC Transit to try and develop a schedule that accommodates the diverse needs of students using the transit system to get to and from different campuses.
“Last semester we started gathering surveys from students that ride the bus to identify their needs and we will present the results to the college and BC Transit. We have already talked to the school about some of the transit issues and they are working on adding two additional buses in the new year and are adjusting the route schedules.”
Above all, Tumar says housing is the biggest difficulty for students entering the new school year and hopes that the community will come together and help through the college’s community housing initiative.
“This is my second year in Canada. When I came here from India the main thing, I noticed is that everyone’s basic needs are not being met. It’s not just students, it’s the community. Inflation has affected everyone, and housing a student will help both people find some relief.”