Photo: jimmy thomas/Flickr

While the benchmark price for all Metro Vancouver homes has decreased 2.8 per cent over the past six months, rising housing costs are still causing major anxiety for BC post-secondary students, according a new poll published last week by marketing research company Insights West.

About 4,082 post-secondary students from 14 different BC institutions participated in the online survey, which sought to gain insight about these students’ key electoral concerns before they vote in the provincial election on May 9th, 2017.

Thirty per cent of the students surveyed ranked rising housing costs as their main concern, followed by job opportunities with 28 per cent and pipelines and the environment with 12 per cent.

The survey was conducted from October to November 2016, on behalf of the UBC Alma Mater Society and most students who participated were studying in the Lower Mainland.

The poll is the first of its kind for Insights West. However, the firm’s Vice President of Public Affairs Mario Canseco says a similar survey was done in 2007 and the new poll’s findings show a shift in students’ concerns.

Ten years ago, Canseco says students were more worried about paying for tuition fees and finding jobs after graduation, but now they’re concerned with finding a place to live.

“It’s almost as if they made peace with those two issues,” says Canseco. “But then you have the other problem which is ‘how can I afford to stay at the place where I am?’” he adds.

As housing prices are a key concern, 49 per cent of participants said after graduation they will probably leave the community where they’re currently studying.

The report says that among this group, 49 per cent claim the reason for leaving is the high cost of living in their community.

“You’re graduating, you’re hoping for a way in which you can stay in the city and it’s becoming harder and harder to do so,” says Canseco. “So, compared to what I did back in 2007, staying in the city was not the problem, it was mostly jobs.”

Many students are currently feeling financially overburdened, with 38 per cent surveyed saying they have obtained loans to cover education and living expenses.

Seventy per cent of students who took out loans say they’re “very worried”  or “somewhat worried” about repaying their debt, according to the poll.

With the provincial election coming up, the poll suggests the majority of participants want their concerns addressed, as 88 per cent are planning on voting.

“It will be crucial for contending parties in this year’s provincial election to offer concrete policies that will sway this group, which voted in droves during the last federal ballot,” says Canseco.

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