Housing is integral to accessible education
Some have questioned the relation between residence rental fee increases and access to education, but if we take into consideration the social context it is clear that there is a direct connection.
One suggestion brought up was that residence housing is a privilege, not a right, and therefore it is unreasonable to demand that it should be affordable. Assuming this argument is correct, and it isn't, we must ask the question about privilege for who? If residence living does add to the educational experience, why should it only be open to the upper class? In essence, this assumption suggests that our education system should be two-tiered, with 'privileges' provided to the rich, while the poorer students are left behind.
But we should recognize that residence housing should not simply be a privilege, and is, in fact, a right. Detractors argue that low-income students could simply seek housing off campus, but the reality is that there is a lack of affordable housing in Toronto and cities across Canada.
-In 2002, 32,000 persons used Toronto's homeless shelters, including 5,000 children
-250,000 households spent 30% or more of their wages on accommodations and are considered to be experiencing relative homelessness, at risk of absolute homelessness
-With increasing poverty rates in Toronto, more people are competing for less affordable housing units, with a combined loss in rental housing from 1996 to 2002 at more than 5,000 units
-Though average rents decreased by 1.5% in Toronto in 2003, average rents had previously increased by 31% between 1996 and 2002, more than twice the 14% rate of inflation over the same period
-While the average low-income household could only afford to pay $450 in rent, the average cost to operate new rental housing in Toronto is about $1400 per unit
These are the circumstances faced by students when they arrive in Toronto to study at our institution and one of the many issues making education inaccessible to low-income students. How could the university claim to be open to people of all economic classes if it refuses to make firm commitments to providing affordable housing for students? It is clear from the decision by the administration to raise rental fees at New College by 20% and Woodsworth College by 10%, that not only is the university not committed to affordable housing but is contributing to processes that are resulting in growing homelessness. Housing is integral to accessing education and if the university is serious about such a commitment it must reaffirm the right to housing by not only refusing to increase rent, but also working towards the reduction of rental costs.