A student leader encourages Saanich to loosen certain bylaws after another student had raised concerns about a “discriminatory” bylaw.
Ainsley Kerr, director of campaigns and community relations for the University of Victoria Students’ Society, said bylaws like limiting the number of unrelated occupants “are dismissive” of the fact that sharing living space with unrelated occupants has always been a stage in the lives of students or young persons.
“It’s easy to generalize low-income renters as ‘students’ and forget that sharing housing is a normal, pro-social behaviour that allows young people to participate in our larger communities,” she said.
She made these comments after Emma Edmonds, a third-year-student at UVic, questioned Saanich’s bylaw enforcement.
Edmonds told council during Saanich’s open forum Jan. 21 that the municipality is evicting her and six other UVic students under Section 5. 20 of Saanich’s zoning bylaw, from their residence in the 1800 block of Teakwood Place near the intersection of McKenzie Avenue and Gordon Head Road.
The bylaw section states the number of “persons unrelated by blood or marriage” in a dwelling “including boarders shall not exceed four.”
“[Section 5.20] is discriminatory towards students and needs to be amended,” said Edmonds.
Kerr broadly agreed with this argument.
“While it’s important to protect the rights of landlords and maintain the rental market, in cases like this, loosening certain bylaws could prevent tenant and landlords from being unnecessarily pitted against each other without putting landlords at risk,” said Kerr.
She said she is not aware of any recent discussions between the student society and the municipality around this issue.
“With that said, the municipality of Saanich has shown an interest in student issues and worked with the UVSS this year to put polling stations on campus for the municipal election,” she said. “We would love to continue working with the Saanich mayor and council and start conversations about housing bylaws in the municipality, especially those affecting the student community.”
Coun. Ned Taylor said he appreciated Edmonds’ appearance before council.
“It’s an extremely unfortunate situation, and the reality is that when students are evicted due to an illegal rental situation, they’re simply going to have to find an illegal rental situation somewhere else because there’s nothing else available,” he said. “This is yet another reminder of just how hard we need to work to address our affordable housing crisis,” he said.