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Vancouver student housing crunch hits harder than stack of textbooks

(Courtesy @DarioGarousian on Twitter)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Dario Garousian says university courses feel like a walk in the park compared to the stress of trying to find an affordable home in Vancouver.

As a student at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Garousian, 21, found there wasn’t enough room for non-first year students to live on campus, so he and a friend decided to look elsewhere.

When they arrived at an apartment viewing, however, they weren’t prepared for the huge line of more than 40 other students that stretched to the sidewalk.


“I was shocked to see that many people in the lineup, that many students,” says Garousian, who posted a photo of the line to Twitter. “Just being there was really overwhelming. Just the thought that I have to write an application and beg for it.”

Garousian says last year he could find a two bedroom apartment for $1,600, but this year, he considers it lucky to find a one bedroom for that price.

Students across the Lower Mainland are experiencing similar scenarios as Garousian. A friend of his is commuting from Port Moody on transit every day to attend classes because she was unable to find an affordable place in a closer location.

Many would like to live on campus and Garousian says the pressure is distracting.

“It’s overwhelming because I want to focus on my studies and extra circulars, but having this burden on my back, I don’t know what to do. I think where am I going to find a place?” he says.

Landlords may also favour tenants with stable incomes and a desire to remain at the site for longer leases, putting students at a disadvantage. Garousian was hoping to use some of his paycheque to pay for school but says the lion’s share will go to rent.

UBC housing director Andrew Parr says even with 11,000 dorm beds – the largest Canadian university student housing complex – they usually have around 5,000 students on their waiting list.

In the past year, the school added 1,400 beds and have three more projects expected to wrap up by 2019 that will add 12,500 more spaces.

Each bed costs roughly $100,000 and an entire complex can take up to four years to finish, Parr says.

“UBC is a microcosm of the bigger challenge that Vancouver faces around the provision of affordable housing for the whole population and the fact that it’s such an issue in the city is partly what puts a burden on UBC,” Parr says.

If he can’t find a place to live, Garousian says he will live with family in North Vancouver, but he realizes not many students have such an option.