Over the course of the pandemic, the average cost of rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in London, ON increased to $1,326, while two-bedroom units went for an average of $1,583. This represents an 11% increase in rents compared to previous years.
Despite this, stipends for graduate students and salaries for postdoctoral associates have largely remained unchanged, placing the brunt of the ongoing housing crisis on graduate and postdoctoral workers who were already facing financial precarity even before the pandemic. Now more than ever, graduate students and postdocs are turning to the university to provide housing units that they can afford. However, instead of listening to our concerns and providing more affordable accommodations on campus, Western has systematically evicted graduate and postdoctoral workers from on-campus housing in order to make room for first-year undergraduate students who pay significantly more in housing costs.
Most recently, Western announced its plans to evict graduate and upper-year students from Bayfield Hall in order to convert the building to a first-year residence this fall. This announcement came only months after Lambton Hall, another upper-year and graduate student accommodation, was converted into a first-year residence in the summer of 2021.
In the past few weeks, we have received several emails from members who feel stuck, uncertain, and helpless in the face of these planned evictions. These graduate and postdoctoral workers are not being provided with sufficient help or compensation to facilitate the moving process. In response to our complaint, the university declared that ‘a site analysis and feasibility study’ is currently being performed to look into providing additional on-campus housing for graduate students and postdocs. However, no clear plan or timeline has been provided for when these accommodations would be made available.
Additionally, because international students and postdoctoral workers make up a significant number of our racialized members, Western’s lack of affordable on-campus housing options may leave them vulnerable to predatory landlords who charge them much higher rents. Therefore, the university’s actions will only serve to heighten the inequality they claim to want to address.
Thus, as a union committed to the principles of human rights, which include the right to an affordable, safe, and secure home in which to live in security, peace and dignity, we oppose and condemn the planned evictions of graduate and upper-year students from their units in Bayfield Hall, and we call for sufficient compensation to be provided for tenants who have been forced to leave their units. We also call on the university to implement a concrete and transparent plan to provide graduate students and post-doctoral researchers with affordable on-campus housing to deal with the ongoing housing crisis.
We are disappointed that Western has continued to dismantle the few affordable on-campus housing units available to graduate workers in favor of profit-motivated interests. We hope to continue working with our members to ensure that Western brings forward a tangible solution to the housing crisis, and stops shirking responsibility for its role in making housing inaccessible and unaffordable for many graduate and postdoctoral workers at this institution.
The PSAC 610 Executive