AMS calls for a 2023 rent freeze

The AMS is calling on the provincial government to mandate a rent freeze for 2023. 

Since 2018, maximum rent increases in BC have been tied to the previous year's July rate of inflation. Due to the pandemic, rent increases in 2022 were capped at 1.5 per cent, but for 2023 without a limit the inflation rate and maximum increase are 8.1 per cent.

Motivated by this policy, AMS VP External Erin Co called for the freeze in a letter addressed to Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing, Murray Rankin. The letter was sent to Rankin and various government officials, including parliament secretaries and deputy ministers.

The letter has been co-signed by other student unions around the province, totalling representation of  230,000 students.

Co’s letter touched on the continuous effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on housing affordability as another motivation for the rent freeze, allowing students to continue recovering post-pandemic.

Co discussed how students experience extreme financial hardships due to their commitment to a full-time workload, which reduces their ability to earn a substantial income to keep up with rising tuition and food costs. 

“A rent freeze would significantly support young adults’ ability to afford living in the province, and it would better protect not only students, but all British Columbians across the province,” she wrote.

She then expressed the value of post-secondary education, as nearly 80 per cent of jobs require post-secondary education or training, which can’t be achieved if students struggle to meet their tuition and housing fees. 

In an interview, Co said the AMS couldn’t consult with students when writing the letter due the timeline of the provincial government’s decision-making, but used data from the 2022 Academic Experience Survey. 

The survey found that 57 per cent of students report financial hardship related to housing, and 62 per cent link high housing costs to food insecurity.

“62 per cent of students report high housing costs as the reason why they're worried that they might not have enough money to purchase groceries, and that's an impossible decision,” Co said.

When asked about the consequences landlords may face with this rent freeze, Co said the AMS recognizes that landlords also face inflationary pressures, but mentioned the changes to the Residential Tenancy Act which provide landlords with greater financial support. Co also pointed out that although landlords face hardships due to rising inflation, the student body is ultimately in a more vulnerable position.

Co expressed her gratitude for not only government officials who have responded and set up meetings to further discuss the matter, but also the support of the AMS.

"I just really want to stress that AMS still is fighting for students."