PEI

UPEI Student Union takes housing issue to provincial government

The student union at the University of Prince Edward Island is urging the provincial government to help in the student housing crisis. Two members of the executive presented to the standing committee on education Tuesday afternoon.

Union wants students to be eligible for rental subsidies

President Emma Drake and Sweta Daboo, vice-president academic and external for the UPEI student union, spoke to the province's education committee Tuesday afternoon. (CBC)

The student union at the University of Prince Edward Island is urging the provincial government to help in the student housing crisis. Two members of the executive presented to the standing committee on education Tuesday afternoon.

Students and staff have said finding a place for students to live is the most difficult it has been in years.

At the committee, the union's president and vice-president academic and external presented several ideas for how government can take action.

The student union had two proposals — to put in further regulations on short-term rentals and to make students eligible for the rental subsidy program.

Short-term rental regulations

The union representatives said students are choosing to learn differently now, extending their study time to five and six years and taking courses in the summer to be able to afford an education.

That means students are looking for housing year-round, and with the busy Island tourism season, finding housing in the summer months is increasingly difficult.

The standing committee on education and economic growth met on Tuesday to hear from the UPEI Student Union. (CBC)

"We see that students are taking courses year-round with a number of programs running in the summer," said Sweta Daboo, vice-president academic and external for the union.

"In addition to that, a lot of students live in Charlottetown over the summer just because it's the place with the highest amount of employment available for students. So just now there's this overlap between short-term rentals and students looking for housing over the summer, as they are oftentimes in eight-month rentals and have to find a temporary situation."

'Easy win'

The other idea is to add students to the rental subsidy program — currently, only seniors and families are eligible. Adding students to the program was a campaign promise from the PCs in the spring election.

"We see that there is an appetite on the government and as well as on the students' end to see this as an easy win in the future," said Emma Drake, president of the student union.

The student union is asking the provincial government for more regulation on short-term rentals and to add students to the rental subsidy program. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

"We'd like to see students who are already recognized as a low-income group in the poverty reduction action plan ... for them to be eligible for rent supplements," said Daboo.

When asked Tuesday if the government was still considering adding students to the rent subsidy program, a spokesperson for the Department of Social Development and Housing said they recognize the issues around housing and are currently reviewing how best to support Island students, but did not commit to fulfilling the promise.

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