Ishita Sharma, a third-year business student at Capilano University, knows the value of living in student residence in British Columbia. As a resident assistant living in off campus housing, she has witnessed the benefits that community living can have on her students’ mental health, and how it allows for cross cultural exchange among domestic and international students. “Access to student housing improves quality of life,” she said. “It brings people together.”
Securing a space at some B.C. university residences can involve being waitlisted for years. Ms. Sharma and her students are among the lucky ones to secure a spot at CapU Residence, which had a 200-person waitlist prior to the pandemic. Others often drive or bus in from cities in the surrounding region like Surrey, which is an hour and a half away by car, while some – according to Ms. Sharma – are sharing a basement apartment with 12 others because of a lack of affordable housing options. Fortunately for future students of Capilano, the university has recently announced its first on-campus student housing complex.
The six-storey building will provide 362 beds for first- and second-year students and is expected to be completed by 2024. Ryan Blades, director of facility services and campus planning, said the new residence is a major milestone for the university, which has always been a “commuter campus.”
“We believe it will have a significant impact on a number of things, including campus life,” he said. “It will add vitality with students living 24/7 on campus, which will be a significant change for the university.”
The building, he noted, also includes a 250-seat dining hall, which will expand food options for those commuting to campus, and the new complex will provide more space for social activities outside of the classroom. Other features of the residence include student study areas, lounge space, kitchen areas on each floor, and an Indigenous reflection space for cultural events.
The province of British Columbia is funding $41.5 million towards the $58.2-million project as part of its student housing loan program first announced in 2018. The government hopes to create 5,000 new on-campus student housing spots to address the critical shortage of student accommodation. “The spaces being built at Capilano will provide affordable and convenient housing for students, reducing a major barrier to education,” said Anne Kang, minister of advanced education and skills training in a press release.
For Ms. Sharma, who is an international student, the new complex will provide a space for students to form new friendships outside of their normal social circles. “In residency, you see people from all around the world, and those relationships that form are so heartwarming to see,” she said. “That is a very important community aspect that we have here.”