UVic planning for additional student housing

The University of Victoria is taking the first steps in planning a modern residence building geared at housing between 500 and 600 students keen to live on campus.

Right now, there aren’t enough beds. Last year, 5,000 applications came in for a space in residence, but UVic has just 2,300 beds in single-student housing and 181 family housing units.

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The university has a policy of guaranteeing first-year students a bed in residence. That meant 93 per cent of single- student beds were taken up by first-year students, leaving little for others. “We have a demand obviously,” Kathryn MacLeod, director of UVic’s residence services, said Friday.

About 30 per cent of first-year students living in residence would like to return, she added.

Some want to stay for a full four years. As well, just over 40 graduate students live in the single-student residence buildings.

More than 70 per cent of UVic’s 19,400 students arrive from off Vancouver Island, and it can be difficult for students to find housing in the region with tight vacancy rates.

UVic’s five-year capital plan includes increasing residence bed numbers. It issued a request for expressions of interest from architects this month for a new facility. The closing date is July 22. MacLeod said it could take two years or longer before a request for proposals goes out.

It’s early in the process but the published request said the initial construction budget could be about $70 million to $100 million.

Building design, the number and type of units, facilities within the building, and its location are still to be determined. Community consultation is a key part of the development process, MacLeod said.

The project is about more than just adding beds. It’s about addressing today’s expectations from students and parents. “They want areas for studying. They want more privacy. They need more electricity in their rooms, more multi-purpose space,” MacLeod said.

A 2013 survey found that two-bedroom apartments or suites would be popular, she said. In this type of unit, students could cook for themselves and share expenses with roommates. Washrooms could be private or semi-private.

Many educational institutions are building four-bedroom suites with kitchenettes and shared eating spaces, MacLeod said.

Some of UVic’s older residence buildings date back to the 1960s and have only small lounge spaces, she said. In some cases, 30 people share a washroom.

UVic is also considering incorporating a new dining area and a new health services facility in the project because they are currently located in outdated facilities.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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