'There's a fair amount of panic': UVic students face unprecedented housing shortage

With days to go before it’s back-to-school time, some university students are facing major stress looking for a place to live in Greater Victoria’s already tight rental market.

“There’s a fair amount of panic in most of them,” says University of Victoria student Lorissa Corrie.

She’s been watching people post on a variety of social media sites in their search for housing, along with staff from UVic.

“The university is certainly aware that there are students out there who are looking for accommodations,” says vice-president of student affairs Jim Dunsdon.

The post-secondary institution has a $200-million expansion project underway to add roughly 780 beds on campus. But the suites won’t be ready until next fall, so the school is pleading with homeowners to open their doors if they can.

“This is the tightest I’ve seen it for students,” says Dunsdon.

Greater Victoria’s rental market has long been plagued by low vacancy rates. The latest figures, dating back to October 2020 from Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation puts the region at a 2.2 per cent vacancy rate. It’s unknown whether it’s worsened since then – the newest stats won’t be release until fall.

But UVic says some landlords have been hesitant to rent during the pandemic and others have converted bedrooms into office space to work from home, taking those places off the market. Plus, hundreds more students are coming to the self-proclaimed “destination university” this fall than last year.

“What we’re trying to do is promote in every way possible the need out there to our local community in hopes that the community will respond as it has in previous years,” says Dunsdon.

UVic student Levi Timmermans says he spent time searching for a place to rent every day. He landed a place after replying to an ad without any pictures and a brief description.

“The guy was saying they had like 50 people coming to look the next day,” he says.

Anyone with space to rent is encouraged to post on places4students.com.