Affordable housing has become a major global issue due to gentrification, increasing property values and the sky-high rents. Access to affordable housing movement is popping up in major cities in order to mobilize against the rising housing costs and increasing homelessness. It is easy to talk about creating affordable housing. However, the creation of it is extremely difficult as people or organizations have to pass through red tape, funding shortages, lack of institutional support and bureaucratic jargon. Affordable housing projects are created through institutional support because private businesses or corporations do not find affordable housing lucrative enough to create.
With a full time student population of around 45,095, York University is the second largest university in Canada. Most of these students are commuters, meaning that they do not live on campus and travel from their homes.
To combat this issue of affordable housing at York University, the Affordable Housing Committee at York University was established in 2016. The committee advocates and facilitates the creation of affordable cooperative housing on York University’s surplus lands. One option to create affordable housing is through an affordable co-op housing model built on surplus lands on the Keele Campus.
More than 150 housing co-ops have been established throughout Toronto and many were built through union support. However, very few new affordable housing buildings have been built since the 1990s because budget cuts to their programs. One of the last remaining housing co-ops built was the Harry Sherman Crowe Housing Co-op at York University, which was the result of the efforts of local unions.
The Affordable Housing Committee at York University’s mission statement is:
“Working to build capacity and partnerships, conduct research and applying for funding towards our goal of creating affordable housing. We hope to see new affordable housing constructed at York University before 2024.”
The committee is made up of faculty, staff, students, alumni, retirees and members of the wider community and is supported by Regenesis, an environmental organization at York. Regenesis believes “in empowering students as initiators of change in addressing today’s social and environmental concerns, through advocacy and service in local chapters”. They “focus on real, comprehensive and practical initiatives and programs to make our campus and our communities, cities and planet more sustainable”.
The creation of affordable housing for York University students is vital because several national and international students are paying abhorrent amount of rent to York or private landowners surrounding the Keele campus for their residence. It is vital that we provide options for students to find affordable housing.
We as a community should hope for success in the creation of affordable housing at York University spearheaded and led by The Affordable Housing Committee, its supporters and donors.