By AINA YASUÉ
Sigi Fraser grew up on Salt Spring, with parents who have lived here for the last 33 years. She is working towards obtaining her masters degree to become a professional librarian and plans to return to the island to settle.
“It’s what I’ve known my whole life,” she said. “The nature and sense of community here is special to me.”
However, accounting for student debt payments, annual tuition, rent, supplies and other essential needs for the next eight years (which she estimates as the duration of her schooling), she worries she won’t be able to afford housing here, even when she returns with her degree.
Young people in B.C. are feeling squeezed by the cost of living, which for many includes housing and education. Generation Squeeze, a think tank working on inter-generational affordability, reports that debt is now three times higher for Canadians under age 45, compared to the 1980s. Currently, it typically takes a young person 13 years to save a 20 per cent down payment on an average-priced home in Canada. According to Gensqueeze.ca, this is more than double the time it took today’s seniors when they were young adults in the mid-70s.
To manage costs, Sigi rents a room from her family at a discounted rate, which takes up 25 per cent of her income. If she were to move out, she would be spending at least double that on rent. Even with the support from her family, she works two part-time jobs while taking courses, to not get over-burdened in tuition debt. On the day of this interview, she had been working for nine days straight, and shared that it took six years to pay off debt accumulated by only 10 months of university tuition and supplies.
Sigi has been searching by word-of-mouth for a year and has put up ads on the exchange about a month ago to grant her a quiet place where she can study after long hours in the service industry. None of the for rent ads she has reached out to have gotten back to her, and she hasn’t heard from renters except from a scam artist.
She’s thankful for her family’s housing, otherwise she’d be forced to live in her car or off island. “That’s kind of the reality that I don’t think a lot of people have come to see. If our generation didn’t have our families to house us, we would be homeless. It would have to be leave the island, live on the street or live in your car.”
The above piece is the sixth in a series of profiles of islanders who are impacted by the lack of affordable housing, compiled and written by Aina Yasué of the Salt Spring Solutions community group.