TRU says work still needs to be done to improve student housing affordability

Student housing affordable?

While Thompson Rivers University says there’s no longer a housing crisis for international students, work is still being done to improve affordability.

Matt Milovick, TRU’s vice-president of administration and finance, said during a board of governors meeting earlier this month that housing for international students has reached a "saturation point."

“I think we are at kind of that saturation point,” Milovick said. “Where all of our international students have a place to live that’s safe, that is affordable.”

Baihua Chadwick, TRU’s vice-president international, told Castanet Kamloops a lack of on-campus housing created a “student housing crisis” for international students several years ago.

She said housing has since been added to ease the pressure, raising the total number of beds to 1,645 through the addition of the 114-unit modular residence West Gate dorms and the university’s newly opened Coyote Den, a 148-bed residence building that recently went up along the Summit Connector.

“I can say we're doing everything we can to ensure every student has a roof over their head,” Chadwick said.

“Im not saying everyone is satisfied, because there is a cost issue. So what we need to continue to work on is more affordable options.”

Chadwick said the university also provides off-campus housing support for international students, including surveys, inventory checks and gathering housing options to be shared during pre-departure orientation.

While the recently completed Coyote Den is the first of a three-phase plan to build three new student housing buildings at East Village, Chadwick said the majority of international students seek off-campus housing despite cheaper on-campus alternatives.

“[I am] hoping that we'll be able to divert or convince some of the students who go off-campus to come on campus if more capacity is added,” Chadwick said.

“The university also has plans to work on domestic recruitment, to work on enrolment increase, so I think if there's no need we won't build.”

Milovick told Castanet in November that the second residence building to be built at East Village will add another 75 beds.

International enrolment is expected to be managed down over the next several years after significant growth in the fall of 2023 that caused total international enrolment headcount to exceed the university’s strategic enrolment management target by more than 600 students.

A report to the university's board of governors states domestic course enrolments declined during the COVID-19 pandemic and are expected to remain the same over the next few years.

While the university is no longer in the midst of a housing crisis, Chadwick said the TRU officials are still “working on the affordability piece.”

Imaad Basmati, a university affairs committee representative for the TRU Student Union, said it’s important for students to be provided with a variety of housing options that are affordable, accessible and below market rates.

“Like anywhere, there could be more units available. Affordability and accessibility is difficult regardless of whether you're a student or not,” Basmati said.

“As a student union, we've been focusing on how we can improve the quality of the housing we already have to meet the needs of our students.”

Cost-of-living requirements for single study permits in Canada for international students will double beginning in January.

TRU’s board of governors will also be considering a five per cent increase to international tuition at an upcoming meeting.

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