Why the Martlet is finally tackling the housing issue
If you go to school in Victoria, odds are you have heard of a horrible housing situation — if you haven’t faced one yourself already. Housing often comes up in our newsroom conversations, as we constantly come across good, bad, and ugly housing stories affecting students and community members.
We can trace issues around housing all the way back to Canada’s colonial roots. The Hudson’s Bay Company still is, in some senses, a real estate company. Even today, their storefronts in downtown Vancouver and Victoria are worth a fortune — a fortune that’s been made at the expense of the Indigenous inhabitants of the land that today we call Canada.
It’s worth noting, of course, that some of us are more disproportionately affected than others. Vulnerable groups including international students, veterans, LGBTQ2+ youths, people with disabilities, and people from low-income backgrounds are all disproportionately affected by the crisis.
It is impossible to tell the full story of Victoria’s housing crisis without writing a book — no single article will do it justice.
In devoting an issue entirely to the housing crisis, we wanted to focus on the way it exists in the narratives of people that are living the effects of this crisis.
We’ve touched on issues like the infamous Saanich housing bylaw. Because of this bylaw — which is still in place despite a promise nearly a year ago from Mayor Fred Haynes to review it — seven UVic students were evicted from their Gordon Head home minutes away from campus because they were breaking section 5.20 in Saanich’s zoning bylaws, which prohibits more than four unrelated people from living together.
Along similar lines, we looked at an innovative approach to housing some Victoria residents have taken to survive the cost of accommodations in the city’s wealthy neighborhoods. For that piece, we spoke to inhabitants of the affectionately-named “Dangle Dome” — a heritage mansion that houses reconciliation workshops and entertainment nights, along with 13 tenants.
We decided to shed a brighter light on those impacted by rising rental prices, declining housing accommodations, and problematic landlords. But one issue is not nearly enough to cover all the complex issues associated with housing insecurity and affordable living in Victoria, in the same way that one bylaw can’t solve the housing crisis.
While it shouldn’t be on students to make sure this system is fairly regulated and held to account, it’s hard for systemic change to take place without Victorians filing disputes against and reporting landlords who behave illegally, or reminding municipalities to review housing policies they find unjust.
Ultimately, housing is an issue that affects us all. Many of us are fortunate enough that it is not a daily struggle to keep a roof over our heads, but even finding yourself in the relatively harmless situations of inconsiderate roommates or unscrupulous scamlords is a sufficient reminder of how deeply this basic need influences all aspects of our lives.
Acknowledging the issue exists in the first place — whether it be one of climate, housing, migration, or economic — is not enough to solve that crisis. It will take work — from our local and provincial governments, our university, our landlords, and ourselves.
Raising awareness about and taking concrete steps to address the housing crisis is not just a matter in our collective self-interest, but is crucial to promote a more equitable society.