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  • Stop the Criminalization of Roommates in Saanich


    If you live in Saanich with more than three roommates, you could be evicted from your home. That is straight. up. wrong.

    But, this week, we have a chance to fix it.

    For decades, students and other tenants have been evicted from their homes because of an outdated, discriminatory bylaw that prevents more than four unrelated people from living in the same dwelling.

    Does this bylaw seem absolutely absurd and unjust to you? We think so too.

    Saanich Council has proposed an amendment to Zoning Bylaw 5.20, increasing the number of unrelated people that can share a home from four to six. On Saturday, June 20, 2020 at 10 am, students and tenant advocates will show their support for this change at a Saanich Council public hearing .

    It typically costs over $1500 a month to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Saanich, if you can even find one. That’s simply out of reach for the majority of single people in this municipality. Since the onset of the housing crisis, local renters have been increasingly burdened by housing costs, with many paying as much as half of their incomes for a room. This bylaw amendment will help lower the cost of shelter by sharing the cost of rent across a greater number of residents.

    When students are unable to afford to rent legally, they are forced to live above occupancy limits, leaving them without tenant protections, at increased risk of domestic or sexual abuse, vulnerable to predatory landlords, and living in unsafe or illegal spaces.

    Many Saanich homes have more than four bedrooms, however the current bylaw bars more than four unrelated tenants from legally filling those rooms. Students are forced to either cross off those options in a tight market, waste money and rooms by living with fewer people, or live in violation of the bylaw. In the face of coronavirus-related economic turmoil and a local housing crisis, this is inefficient and simply unacceptable.

    Some opponents of this necessary, inclusive increase have relied on unfounded stereotypes of students as disruptive to neighbourhoods, citing issues such as noise and crowding. But this bylaw is not about parking, noise disturbances, or unsightly premises. Saanich has many other bylaws to keep those individual issues in check. A bylaw that keeps many homes in this municipality off-limits to residents based on marital and family status is unnecessary, discriminatory, and disproportionately impacts the lives of students and low-income renters.

    The UVSS urges all Greater Victoria residents to express their support for this Bylaw amendment by sending an email to council@saanich.ca by Friday, June 19 at noon. A coalition of students and the Victoria Tenant Action Group will be attending the meeting to advocate for changing the Saanich Zoning bylaw 5.20.

    All residents in Saanich deserve to feel safe and secure in their homes—stop the criminalization of roommates in Saanich.

    The University of Victoria Students’ Society Victoria Tenant Action Group

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    What an overwrought bag of gas this is. For starters, violating a municipal bylaw doesn't "criminalize" anyone, it may make them a scoff-law but in no way violates any part of the Criminal code of Canada. Anybody who has managed to make it all the way to university level should know that by now though, so it's simply being used as inflammatory rhetoric and can be stopped anytime.

    To compare family groups living together in their own residence to a group of unrelated students renting a property is apples and oranges. The former usually have a responsible adult living onsite with a vested interest in caring for their property and maintaining positive relations with their neighbours and wider community, while the latter don't. I've seen all too many of these places becoming party centers, being used misused, abused, and generally becoming burden on the neighbourhood. This is not based on "unfounded stereotype of students", but on lived experience. There's very good reason why this bylaw was enacted in the first place, and it should be kept unchanged.

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    As a Saanich property owner and landlord to 5 amazing Uvic students I am in favour of the amendment, and have advised council of my thoughts.

    I have rented to 3 separate groups of 5 unrelated persons and have never, ever had an issue, nor have my neighbours.  Careful screening eliminates undesirable tenants. 

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    Guest Frustrated UVic student


    UVic students should just take over Saanich Council, which passes a whole host of bylaws hostile to students.  E.g. a mandatory 1am closing time for the campus pub.  

    UVic students have the numbers to do it:  all that's needed is a polling station on campus, which the current election authorities refuse to permit because they would rather encourage municipal voter suppression of the student vote, who in their busy schedules have no time to reach their local municipal polling station.

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