Next month, the AMS will be launching the Rent With Rights (RWR) campaign, an advocacy and awareness initiative aiming to improve housing rights for UBC renters.
While most BC tenants benefit from protections outlined in the Residential Tenancy Act (RTA), the RTA’s fourth article excludes properties owned by educational institutions. This means that UBC students can be evicted from residences faster, are less likely to receive financial compensation in the case of a contract violation and have less overall rights than their Vancouver counterparts.
“The development of [RWR] really began in the early 2014 period, when there were a lot of changes made to student housing, specifically around rent increases,” said AMS VP External Sally Lin.
“The AMS saw a lot of public outcry … there was little consideration for student’s ability to pay a much more exorbitant price.”
In response, the AMS began developing a set of nine recommendations in collaboration with the Simon Fraser Student Society and the University of Victoria Student Society. Earlier this year, the recommendations were also endorsed by the Alliance of BC Students. Together, these organizations represent around 150,000 students across the province.
These recommendations include preventing universities from raising rent by more than two per cent annually, setting a fixed eviction notice time of one calendar month — 10 days if the tenant has not paid rent — and implementing committees to oversee tenancy appeals. The committees would be formed by an impartial mix of faculty and students in order to guarantee fair oversight in appeals processes, which have traditionally been overseen by Student Housing and Hospitality Services’ staff at UBC.
Citing the “lack of a way for the institution to troubleshoot these issues that have come up,” Lin therefore views giving UBC students a clear, intuitive and impartial appeal process to be the RWR’s key component.
“Students should have the same amount of rights as those living in the greater BC area,” she said. “Students need to have the right amount of privacy to themselves and to have clarity in the when navigating problems and conflicts in student housing.”
Next month, the RWR campaign will begin outreach on campus via social media, canvassing and boothing in the Nest. Its goal is to garner at least 1,000 signatures over the course of the month.
Lin stressed that there is nothing particularly crucial about reaching the 1,000-signature benchmark, but the AMS intends to use it to demonstrate student support and educational outreach.
“It’s a goal that we are setting to make sure everything we’re doing is interactive with our students,” she said.
The AMS is currently slated to meet with provincial government officials in Victoria, including various ministers and members of legislative assembly, to discuss how to best implement fairer housing legislations for students. Point Grey MLA and BC Attorney General David Eby is an early supporter of the campaign, but the BC NDP has not yet commented on it.