Support affordable student and family housing at SFU

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Photo Credit: Talha Qadir
Photo Credit: Talha Qadir
Photo Credit: Talha Qadir

I used to live in SFU’s residence, and it wasn’t incredible. When I moved my bags into McTaggart-Cowan Hall, it was clear that not much had been maintained during the 30-something years the building has been standing. Walls had cracks, hinges creaked, the bathroom floor tile was discoloured, and the whole building smelled musty with age.

Later that semester, the old plumbing burst and our entire wing of the building flooded, causing 90 per cent of us to relocate for the rest of the school year.

For years, our provincial government has been consistently underfunding SFU, leading to a lack of maintenance measures. This is an unfortunate situation, especially since hundreds of students depend on this housing to complete their education. In this sense, I sympathize with the institution. However, I do not sympathize with the lack of transparency that Residence and the university have projected over this issue.

SFU’s Louis Riel Residence is one of the oldest student housing buildings on campus, and it shows. Standing in front of the building seems reminiscent of a real-life Tim Burton film — a grotesque, concrete structure that hollers ‘mould!’ before one even steps through the door. Those who move into residence at SFU are not allowed the chance to ‘pre-screen’ the rooms before move-in day, a policy I find oddly secretive for a university.

In light of the announcement of Louis Riel’s impending August closure, resident Teresa Dettling proclaimed to Global News, “We were all lied to about the condition of the building before we took possession of our apartments!” On SFU Residence’s website, photos of the kitchens and dorms either make the place look fantastic, or are too pixelated to really garner a sufficient understanding of its quality.

The photos of SFU Residence’s dorms are either too pixelated or make the place look fantastic.

My family and I were disappointed upon stepping into McTaggart, and I cringe to think of what reality hit the Louis Riel residents and their families upon move-in day — contract signed, no turning back for an entire year.

It’s upsetting that SFU has remained so hush-hush about the crumbling conditions of their original residences for so long. I’m unable to find any previous public contact surrounding the complaints residents have been making about Louis Riel for years, and there’s been no recent discussion of new affordable housing projects on campus. As a result, this diverse community of residents have been told they will be evicted in August — leaving many of them unable to find housing elsewhere.

For these reasons, I personally support affordable family housing at SFU. I support transparent discussion between these residents and the university, to ensure that their well-being is not overlooked due to financial gain. I support keeping these students and children on the mountain — the place where their contract promises they will remain — and that these new housing situations are accessible for the disabled. And I support the guarantee of a future for low-income, indigenous and international students to live in residence at this institution.

SFU publicly prides itself on diversity; it would be quite a shame to have to dismiss these students from the mountain when all is said and done.

SFU Residence and Housing have not yet offered a solution to this problem, which is unfortunate. A resolution had better be made quickly; with every day that passes, they’ll sour their reputation by digging themselves further into a hole — all because they chose inaction at the expense of the health and safety of their residents.