Business is booming in Edmonton, but for many students there’s a downside to the good times. The influx of workers means a crunch in affordable housing, and post-secondary students are among the first to feel the squeeze.
For the Edmonton Alliance of Students (EAS), the city’s recent municipal elections provided a perfect forum to address the housing shortage, and to draw attention to other pressing issues, such as student transportation.
Formed in August, the EAS is a student advocacy organization representing over 100,000 Edmonton post-secondary students. Their mandate is to tackle issues, such as housing and transportation, at the municipal level. The EAS was launched by the University of Alberta, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), and Grant MacEwan College.
?As Edmonton grows, the impact on the quality of student life is becoming more and more apparent and it is critical that students across the city form a unified voice to ensure that student interests are represented to city leaders,? said U of A Students’ Union President Michael Janz in a recent release.
The EAS have set their sights on newly elected councillors in wards 4 and 5, and plan to work with them to find solutions to both city-wide and student-centred issues.
As new Ward 4 councillor Ben Henderson noted, ?We’ve got a real housing problem in the city right now, and It’s taking everything off of the market That’s actually in the affordable range for everybody on a low income, and that includes students.?
Transportation remains a key issue as well, in spite of the implementation of the Universal Transit Pass (U-Pass) at the U of A and MacEwan.
?The U-Pass is a big step forward for public transit in Edmonton, but the system could still use improvement to better meet students’ transportation needs,? said MacEwan Students’ Association President Justin Benko. ?The municipalities also need to make sure that service levels are sufficient to meet rising demand related to U-Pass implementation.?
AUSU Executive Director Tamra Ross says that the students’ union is concerned about housing and transit issue as there are a few thousand AUSU members in Edmonton affected by these issues.
?We have offered our support to the EAS and wish them success with the project. The U-Pass program has not proven advantageous to our students, but we would like to see some enhanced options for students to purchase discounted bus passes directly from the transit authority.?
In an interview following the elections, Justin Benko was positive about the results, noting they will offer new opportunities for the EAS to work with councillors and advocate for students.
?I think the EAS will be pretty strong with our advocacy towards this new council. I’m pretty sure that we’ll be able to get some things done.?