More students will be able to live on campus and close to classes at Vancouver Island University.
The B.C. government was at VIU’s Nanaimo campus on Friday, Sept. 2, to announce it is providing $87 million – 99 per cent of the total project cost – to build 266 new student housing beds and a new dining hall.
Anne Kang, B.C. minister of advanced education and skills training, was at VIU to make the announcement, stating post-secondary need access to affordable housing to complete their studies, remove barriers to education and lay the foundation for their future.
“Post-secondary students need access to affordable housing to complete their studies, remove barriers to education and lay the foundation for their future,” the minister said in a press release.
The new accommodations will increase VIU’s on-campus housing from 536 beds to 802.
“It will help relieve the pressure on the rental markets in Nanaimo too, something that we’re keeping a very close eye on,” Kang said.
A nine-storey “hybrid mass-timber” building is envisioned, according to the press release, with construction expected to begin in 2023 and be completed in time for the fall semester in 2025.
“It’s promising to be a really gorgeous place, I promise you that,” Kang said.
Deborah Saucier, VIU president, said the university’s strategic plan commits to supporting a larger and more diverse student population. She hopes the new housing will have a positive effect on Nanaimo.
“We have a 300-person wait-list right now, so this will clear a backlog, but importantly, for every student that doesn’t get in to space here on campus, there’s one rental unit out there in the community, so it’s almost double the effect,” said Saucier. “It will actually do a lot to ameliorate some of the housing concerns in Nanaimo, particularly around affordable housing.”
The benefit of the dining hall will be multi-faceted, said Saucier. In addition to feeding students, it will also offer learning opportunities.
“Right now, our current cafeteria has a separate function where the culinary students also provide affordable, nutritious food and we’ll be looking at trying to figure out ways in which we can not only provide culturally appropriate food, but ways in which we can engage our students to help other students with their needs.”
Cole Reinbold, a VIU student and student residence community leader, said more housing will benefit students’ social lives. They get to be close to like-minded people and it makes it easier for lifelong connections.
“In my first year, I was known as a room-dweller, that means a person who stays in their room, doesn’t go to events and then my community leader pulled me out of my room,” she said. “I started as an introvert when I came to VIU and now I’d say I’m almost on the extroverted scale, just because I was gently pushed into socializing through the residence.”
The province noted that the new residences will be built to Step 4 standards in the B.C. Energy Step Code and will connect to VIU’s geo-exchange system that utilizes former coal mining shafts underneath the university campus.
Indigenous elders will be consulted when it comes to naming the new residence, Saucier told the News Bulletin.