On Tuesday night, Peterborough city council approved a plan for a for-profit corporation to own and operate a new student residence at Trent University. I'm concerned that this may signal a new trend at Canadian universities; about a year ago, I blogged about a similar plan at the University of Toronto.
I am not opposed to private sector actors being hired to build student housing (or any other kind of housing, for that matter). Indeed, even when social housing is built, roughly 95 per cent of the capital costs go to the private sector to pay engineers, land surveyors, lawyers, labourers and others. But as I argue in a 2007 policy paper, over the long term, rent increases significantly more when housing is owned and operated by a private entity as opposed to a not-for-profit entity. This in turn results in increases in rent for other tenants living in the same geographical area.
Thus, when a private entity owns and operates student housing, the cost of rent at some point (especially 10 or 20 years down the road) could easily be $100 more per month than if a not-for-profit entity owned and operated the housing. For a student living in the housing for a full year, this amounts, in effect, to a $1,200/year tuition increase. What's more, these rent increases create upward pressure on rent for tenants throughout the jurisdiction (probably less pressure in municipalities where students make up a small proportion of tenants, and more pressure in municipalities where students make up a larger proportion of tenants... such as in a "university town").
When senior levels of government and universities allow for-profit entities to own and operate student housing, I believe they do two things. First, they increase the cost of living for students living in said housing. Second (and less directly), they increase the cost of living for other students (and other tenants) living near that housing.
I think senior levels of government should work with universities to ensure that for-profit corporations never own and operate student housing. They should also ensure that student housing owned and operated by universities operates on a revenue-neutral basis (i.e. universities should not use the student housing as a source of revenue to fund other activities).
This article was first posted on The Progressive Economics Forum.
Thank you for reading this story…
More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.
rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.
So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.
And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.