Strategy aims to help students find housing

NANAIMO – Vancouver Island University develops housing strategy to co-ordinate efforts on finding students quality housing options.

Vancouver Island University officials often hear concerns about the availability and quality of student housing and the institution is putting together a housing strategy to help address the issue.

The availability of quality student housing is an important part of Vancouver Island University’s recruitment and retention strategy – a key element of the 2013 -14 budget is growing the domestic and international student populations – and the university wants to develop a plan that will co-ordinate all efforts by the different departments at the university, said president Ralph Nilson.

The 365 beds on campus fill up quickly, leaving an average of about 300 people on a wait list each year, and often demand is high enough that international students are housed in hotels.

With about 16,000 students attending the Nanaimo campus annually, including 1,600 international students, the university gets calls from students and families struggling to find accommodation, said Nilson.

“Sometimes we hear stories of people living in sub-standard housing,” he said. “We’re always looking for options.”

The institution’s Campus Master Plan calls for more student housing on campus, but the university is not permitted to take on any debt to develop it, said Nilson.

“We’d like to invest in housing, but we don’t have the ability to invest at this time,” he said.

University officials plan to bring together all of the people on campus working on housing, such as in the international education department, the high school and those helping first year students, to work on this strategy and deal with the issue together.

Nilson said he hopes a central housing strategy will raise the profile of the need for quality housing and it will explore how the university can become better advocates for students.

“We don’t take responsibility for students now who take housing in the community,” he said. “If we hear about student complaints, we will be advocates, we’ll work with them and the city to identify problems that exist.”

Partnerships to create more student housing in the community is also something the strategy will explore, said Dan Hurley, university spokesman.

“We don’t have money to bring to the table, but we do have students,” he said.