The biggest and most urgent question we university students want answered is how am I going to put a roof over my head? That’s why we’re all here, really, so that with the shiny piece of paper we (hopefully) get at the end, we can finally answer the question of where our rent or mortgage money is going to come from. In the meantime, we still need a place to stay, and it isn’t always clear what the best options are.
Owning your own home is obviously the gold standard, and it isn’t hard to see why. There are many advantages to owning your own home, such as privacy, and the freedom to decorate and improve your property however you like. Perhaps the biggest advantage is financial — you only have a finite number of payments to make, and you can “cash out” and sell the home (hopefully at a profit) at a later date. Unfortunately, homeownership comes with a hefty buy-in cost, and that price is only going to go up in the Fraser Valley, now that the real estate speculators have gobbled up all of the low hanging fruit in Vancouver. If you want to buy a house in the Fraser Valley, it’s pretty much now or never. Sadly, most of us aren’t in a position to make that kind of investment, and won’t be for a long time, so we may need to consider other options.
Renting is the next step down from ownership. It has the advantage of privacy and some freedom, as well as smaller up-front costs. However, rent is expensive these days, and so this option may still be out of reach for many of us, especially those who want to live close to the city. No matter what, you will need a stable and adequate income, which is hard to get at the same time as a degree. Even so, you don’t have to pay as much at once, but you may end up paying more in the long run. Unfortunately, utilities, maintenance, and upgrades are largely out of your hands. If your landlord cannot or will not provide these, you are not allowed to do them yourself.
Alternatively, you could take advantage of the dorm rooms available at UFV. It does mean more in student fees, but it is still less than what you would pay in rent. This option does have its downsides, such as crowding and noise. On the other hand, it saves on commuting to school, and it is a good opportunity to finally get away from your family, get a taste of independence, and have new experiences with your peers.
Another popular option, which I myself am taking advantage of, is to continue living with one’s family. This is probably the cheapest option if it’s available to you, since your parents or guardians will be subsidizing your living costs. However, this is also the most confining lifestyle, since you have to share a living space with other people who have more authority over it than you do. While continuing to live with one’s parents into adulthood isn’t as stigmatized as it was in the past, there is still an expectation that you will move out at some point, and not being able to be free and self-sufficient can weigh heavily on one’s self-esteem after a while.
Some people decide to think outside the box. I recall a piece in The Cascade a while back about a student who decided to live out of a van. This is admittedly a cheap option, but one still has to pay for fuel and vehicle maintenance. It is also an existence lacking in creature comforts. I imagine not having access to a bathroom would get unpleasant really quick.
There are also certain variables to consider. Location can have a major impact on how attractive any given option might be. Owning a house in a seedy neighbourhood, or in the middle of nowhere, may not be worthwhile. Likewise, the people you have to live with can have an impact. Perhaps you get along famously, or maybe you are counting down the days until you can be rid of them.
Wondering about where you are going to live in the near future might keep you awake at night, but just remember that there are options for whatever your resources and preferences might be. That being said, you will likely have to make some sacrifices. It all depends on what you need and want from a home, and what you value in your lifestyle.