More student housing coming to campus

TRU purchases Upper College Heights with loan from B.C. government

Friday’s announcement comes as part of the provincial government’s 30-point housing plan. (Left to right) Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education Skills and Training, TRU president Alan Shaver, Premier John Horgan, TRUSU president Tatiana Gilbert and elder Estella Patrick Moller of the Nak’azdli First Nation. (Wade Tomko/The Omega)

With the support of the province, TRU is buying Upper College Heights, a six-building rental complex with 391 student homes located across from the university on Summit Drive. Premier John Horgan made the announcement alongside two cabinet ministers, TRU president Alan Shaver and TRUSU president Tatiana Gilbert last Friday as part of the B.C. government’s 30-point housing plan.

The $37 million student-housing project will completely renovate the existing units on site, while adding an additional 142 homes for students, including the first on-campus homes designed for student and their families.

In addition to the new units for students, the purchase includes 8.4 acres of land that can be used to create more student housing in the future.

“To meet that demand for housing here we have been working in partnership with president Shaver and his team to allow us to build 533 new student units right on this property,” Horgan said. “The renovation of this facility into student housing will mean that the experience of being a part of the campus will be available to more students, which will mean a richer educational experience for them and will also mean that we will have an opportunity to develop further as the need arises.”

Of the money going into the project, $25.5 million has been loaned to TRU from the province. The loan is expected to be paid back through rent money collected in the units. The total cost of the project includes the $33.4 million needed to buy Upper College Heights, as well as $3.5 million in renovations.

The site itself will be run as a student residence, meaning TRU will be given the ability to control the environment in terms of safety and living experience, says Shaver. It also means that TRU will be in control of rent, which Shaver says will likely be more affordable than both the McGill Housing and the Residence & Conference Centre.

“Obviously when we buy the place we have to do the evaluation and get it upgraded, the same as we did with the McGill residence so we can get some idea of what we are after,” he said. “But our goal is to make it affordable. It will be more affordable than the other two residences that we have.”

The loan to TRU comes as part of the B.C. government’s commitment to building a better life for post-secondary students across B.C. by investing $450 million over the next six years into new on-campus housing. Over this time period, 5,000 new student homes will be created by the government, while an additional 3,000 will be built by post-secondary institutions through grants, partnerships and self-financing.

“There is so much to do out there to address affordability and access to post-secondary education and I know that housing is going to help us do that,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education Skills and Training. “That is what this is really about, it is working in partnership with Dr. Alan Shaver and presidents at the 25 post-secondary institutions across B.C. who know that if we build student housing we build a better campus life for students.”

While the new housing project is directed at students and their families, the purchase is also meant to help free-up affordable housing in other parts of the city for low-income earners.

“If we can get students living on-campus, that frees up some of the affordable housing for others in the community who are still looking for a safe place to call home,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “More than $7 Billion will be invested over the next ten years in British Columbia so people can live in the communities where they were born and raise their families.”