Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include more information.
The Kwantlen Student Association will host an event about student housing and how it relates to policies, rights, and mental health on Sept. 11 from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Surrey Conference Centre.
“Brick by Brick: Navigating the Student Housing Hurdle,” will be an opportunity for students to participate in discussions on housing, hear from experts, and network.
“When I came to Canada, the first major concern [I noticed] that students face is housing because that is the basic necessity. … The prices are way too high. You basically pay around $1,300 to $1,500 [a month] for a [tiny] room,” says Jasmine Kaur Kochhar, KSA vice president external affairs.
“We have cases in which the rights of students have been exploited by landlords, students don’t know how the rent system works or what access the landlord has, so that was a concern.”
Kochhar says since she was in a position to do something about this problem, she started planning the event.
“Students should [know] what they are missing out [on] and what they should be aware of, and we should at least keep students safe from all these things happening,” she says.
Abdullah Randhawa, KSA president and vice-president of university affairs, also says that when international students come to Canada, they are unaware of their housing rights.
“These were the things we felt on the first day, which we couldn’t [get] any help [with]. We had to struggle for it,” he says. “This was our main motto for this event, we want to educate the students and tell them we are working on it and we can help them.”
For guest speakers, the KSA has invited KPU International to provide global insight into housing solutions. Students will also hear from representatives from Fraser Health’s South Asian Health Institute, which will speak on health and well-being relating to student housing, and BC Housing, a provincial Crown agency, to discuss policies and affordable housing strategies.
“[BC housing] can tell them what tenants’ rights [are], how they can sign a contract, and all the stuff they need to be aware of, because most international students who come in, they’re not aware of the rules,” Randhawa says.
“If they don’t sign a contract, they’re living [there] illegally. We just want to educate them [to] be legal on everything.”
Randhawa says students can expect to learn about tenancy rules, their rights as tenants to prevent exploitation from their landlords, and how to report and file a complaint if their rights are violated. He says he has seen international students be mistreated in the past, especially because they may not be as familiar with their rights in Canada.
“For some cases, and I have heard it from students, even if someone is being harassed by some person, they don’t file a complaint. They say it will have a bad impact on their record. But it’s their basic right to file a complaint,” he says.
Attendees will have the chance to win prizes, which Randhawa says is a way of showing “appreciation” for students taking time out of their day to join the event. According to the KSA website, they will be giving away up to $1,200 worth in prizes, including a $500 KPU tuition waiver and $300 IKEA gift card so students can purchase furnishing necessities.
The event also aims to tackle mental health as Kochhar says it correlates with housing issues.
“When it comes to housing, if you don’t have a decent place to live, that directly affects mental health,” she says.
“If you have a proper place to live or you have proper resources, you’re more calm [and] you can concentrate on your work, your academics.”
Representatives from Fraser Health will be at the event to support students with their mental health and provide them with resources.
The KSA expects to see about 200 to 250 students attend the event, which will also be available virtually over Zoom.
“I’m really happy that we came up with this event. This is actually a somewhat unique event and [compared to] events that happened in the past, this is a really new concept,” Kochhar says.
For information on the event and how to register, visit https://kusa.ca/event/brick-by-brick/.