Thompson Rivers University has gone ahead with plans to install and operate temporary work camp-style student housing put together in a campus parking lot, following housing shortages encountered at the start of the fall semester.
The 114-unit complex is made from pre-fabricated modular housing units, similar to what is seen in industrial work camps and other temporary housing builds.
It is located at the corner of McGill Road and University Drive, using part of a campus parking lot.
"I don't think that this is enough, but it's a start and it'll get students out of low-income housing and make that available for low-income families — and it adds 114 more beds to the inventory in Kamloops, so it can only be a good thing," said Warren Asuchak, TRU's vice-president of campus infrastructure.
Initially, the university was looking to build as many as 300 units of housing in various parking lots on campus, Asuchak said. But its options were limited due to the requirements of the BC Building Code, which the City of Kamloops cited in its denial of TRU's original plans.
Students could apply to live in the new spaces as of Monday, Dec. 13, but they won't start living there until Jan. 9, 2022.
The university describes the new rooms available as "fully equipped and comfortable." The rooms are self-contained and feature a bed, a desk and a chair, wireless internet, a small dresser, a wall-mounted TV and a bathroom with stand-up shower, toilet and sink. There are also mini-fridges and microwave ovens. Shared laundry is included.
Parking, which is also typically in short supply on campus, has been scaled back in Lot XT, leaving 86 spots available out of its usual 239. Asuchak said the part of the parking lot now occupied by living units was not often used.
Asuchak said while working with the city it was suggested the university make use of the corner lot, which it purchased from Canadian Freightways in 2016.
The temporary housing adds to TRU's other inventory, which includes the North Tower residence building, the dated McGill Residence and the East Village, which was previously known as Upper College Heights, a private apartment complex the university purchased in 2018. In total, the university has room for 1,366 students to live on campus.
TRU has dubbed the new area the West Gate Dormitories. The cost to students is $2,000 to stay from Jan. 9 to May 1, which comprises the school's winter semester. Rates are also posted for the 2022 summer semester, with students paying $2,400 to live from May 2 to Aug. 7.
The university previously sought permission from the City of Kamloops to construct housing that did not comply with the B.C. Building Code due to the emergent need behind that housing. When that request was denied, TRU turned to local hotels and motels to house students, subsidizing where necessary to bring costs more in line with on-campus housing options.
Many of those concerns have since been alleviated, according to the city and university.
"TRU has always had the city's support in putting in housing to deal with students. We wanted to make sure it met the B.C. Building Code," City of Kamloops CAO David Trawin said.
Trawin said outstanding issues are related to servicing the site and other "minor stuff."
As for a long-term plan, Asuchak said the university has plans for more permanent solutions and is still exploring the use of modular housing to construct a larger facility.