Students living in residence could see their rent increase by four per cent following a proposal that was passed at a Board of Governors subcommittee.
On February 27, the Board’s Finance and Property Committee passed a motion to raise the rent for the 2018-19 year, with only the Students’ Union president Marina Banister and the Graduate Students’ Association president Babak Soltannia voting against the change. The proposal still needs final approval from the Board of Governors, which will vote on the change in their next meeting on March 16 in SAB 2-31.
The four per cent increase would apply to all of the University of Alberta’s 21 residences. Over 2,000 U of A students live in residence, 70 per cent of them are first-year students.
U of A vice-president (finance and administration) Gitta Kulczycki argued that the increase was necessary to avoid running a deficit in the residence system, which is currently operating at a net loss. She said residences aren’t intended to make a profit, but the university does not want it to run at a deficit either.
Banister argued against the motion and said the rent increases aren’t in the, “best interests of the students or the institution.” She said Peter Lougheed Hall’s rent is already above market average and is disincentivizing students from living on campus. She argued that alternative solutions that do not put an additional financial strain on undergraduates should be explored instead.
Vice-president (facilities and operations) Andrew Sharman rebutted Bannister’s concerns, stating BFPC does “benchmark with surrounding properties to make sure residences are competitive” and that part of the fees are for residence life. He also said the cost of operating the residences is increasing due to factors such as the minimum wage increase affecting janitorial costs, charges for carbon transmissions increasing, and external operating factors outside of their control.
“Quality housing is critical to student success,” Kulczycki said. “And student input is critical in developing residence plans to sustain and improve the residence system. Those are the principles that have guided this motion.”