AMS ‘incredibly happy’ with newest BC budget, which set aside funding for student housing

AMS VP External Sally Lin said the AMS is “incredibly happy” with the new provincial budget that was announced in February, as it includes AMS recommendations made last October. She’s particularly pleased with their inclusion of specific housing plans.

Citing a “drastic shortage of affordable housing” in BC, Finance Minister Carole James laid out the government’s plans to increase the supply of available housing in BC. In this 2018 budget the provincial government set aside $450 million for student housing. Part of this will be distributed to post-secondary institutions, creating approximately 5,000 new student beds.

Citing this as an “unprecedented and historical” investment in student housing, Lin believes that this is a great step in improving the housing situation on campus and also in BC. At the same time, she acknowledged that how much and when this housing will be provided remains unclear as of right now.

Other recommendations that the AMS presented to the provincial government last October include the alleviation of student loan interest rates, the provision of needs-based grants to students who are unable to bare the cost of continuing their education, facilitating graduate student scholarships, and the expansion of sexual assault care resources.

While the provincial government was responsive to the demands of student societies pertaining to student housing, other points of affordability were not given as much attention.

Regarding the government’s omission of policies that would effectively reduce student loan interest rates and the provision of grants and scholarships, Lin said “It is a slight disappointment to see that it hasn’t been enacted just yet.”

“But we do believe that this is a conversation piece moving forward,” she added.

The budget also highlighted the provision of an additional $18 million dedicated to outreach and counselling support for women and children in BC who are survivors of violence.

While Lin said that the AMS will continue to lobby for targeted funding for sexual violence on postsecondary campuses, this new investment would still have an “indirect impact” for UBC students, as it would increase the number of resources available to them in the Lower Mainland.

Besides the specific recommendations made by the AMS, Lin acknowledged the inclusion of other policies and plans in the budget which she anticipates as being helpful to current or prospective students. This includes the investments into Indigenous skills training, as well as the allocation of funds to adult basic education and English language learning.

“These will ... address students from a marginalized background, to help them take that next step in their education,” Lin said.

She also highlighted the budget’s investment of $11 million in computer sciences, information technology and engineering in postsecondary institutions.

“Because UBC — and Vancouver — is a technology hub, we see that this investment will improve access for students at UBC to connect them with jobs in the market,” Lin said.

Lin noted the AMS’s overall satisfaction with the new budget but underscored the need to continue engaging in follow-up conversations with the provincial government.

“I think it’s really important to acknowledge that this government has been very willing to listen to student concerns,” Lin said. Moving forward, she believes that advocacy for persisting issues will be part of a continuation of the current conversation to provide feedback on what was missing from this budget round.