Student housing analysis shows coming demand

Scion Group study focuses on affordability and future demand with regards to current offerings

McGill residence is receiving upgrades this summer. Much of TRU’s future development of student housing will depend on the lifetime of the buildings. (Wade Tomko/The Omega)

Last week, the Scion Group, a student housing development group that also offers advisory services, presented to TRU stakeholders a report on the student housing market for TRU. The student housing market and demand analysis first started in October, when Scion started to collect data on occupant capacity, residence rates, food services and more.

Over the following months, Scion surveyed students in person and online, interviewed stakeholders, conducted on- and off-campus market tours and studied the housing market at peer institutions.

While TRU’s housing situation is similar to peer campuses across B.C., according to Scion Group’s director of advisory services, Mike Porritt, TRU’s housing market has a few critical issues that will need to be dealt with in the years to come.

One issue that Scion observed was the current lack of nightlife at TRU.

“TRU’s campus isn’t very active after 5pm,” Porritt said. “Boosting campus life after dark should be a priority.”

The report noted that WolfPack sports events, which are held at the Tournament Capital Centre, are often the only reason students and other members of the community are drawn to campus in the evening. Scion suggested that to remedy this, TRU should focus on going for quality over quantity when it comes to hosting events.

Affordability of the TRU Residence and Conference Centre was highlighted as one of Scion’s biggest concerns, with Porritt saying that rates there are similar to prices of high-end housing at other B.C. institutions such as UBC and UVic. If TRU was to build new housing, Porritt said that it can’t be at the same price point as the TRU Residence and Conference Centre and manage to achieve full capacity.

Earlier this semester, a focus group led by TRUSU revealed that housing affordability was one of the biggest concerns for students living both on and off campus. TRUSU president Brian Chiduuro said he wasn’t surprised by Scion’s findings, which he said were similar to the results of the focus groups.

“There were a number of common issues, but affordability was number one,” Chiduuro said. “Both the report and the data from the focus group emphasized the importance of affordability. Students are always complaining about affordability. They aren’t just looking for housing, but for something they can afford.”

Another issue brought up at the presentation was the current state of the McGill Residence, which could have a lifespan of another seven to 10 years. While TRU doesn’t plan on dismantling the McGill residence any time soon, Scion warns that if they do before building another residence building, TRU may be in for a student housing crisis.

According to Scion’s housing forecast, by fall of 2021, there will be excess demand of 104 beds. Without the McGill residence, this number rises to 448 beds.

Renting rates at the McGill residence, which has been operated by Campus Living Centres since TRU acquired the building last summer, will be increasing by 3.6 per cent this year, according to Brandon de Krieger, TRU Residence and Conference Centre’s general manager.

This summer, McGill residence buildings two and three will be refurbished. Both buildings will have security cameras and new water heaters installed. Fridges in all suites will be standardized and pre-existing electrical issues will be fixed, according to de Krieger. Cracks in the concrete balconies will also be patched over.