As we saw during the recent federal election, housing has become an issue of concern for citizens across Canada. People from Nova Scotia to British Columbia have raised concerns about a shortage of affordable rental units in their communities.
Locally, we’ve heard recently about Thompson Rivers University’s efforts to find suitable accommodations for approximately 200 students struggling to find a place to live.
First, I want to clarify a couple of misconceptions that have arisen. It is not an influx of new students that set this housing dilemma in motion. In fact, there are roughly 1,000 fewer students on campus than in the fall of 2019. COVID-19 reduced the number of students enrolled at TRU in 2020 and the effects of the pandemic continue to be felt.
Next, the extraordinary summer wildfires and the ensuing wave of evacuees placed additional stress on the local rental market. The fact is, this year’s housing shortage has been developing for a while and, despite the fact we have increased on-campus student housing in the past few years, the issue has come to the forefront because of the convergence of too many long- and short-term factors.
While we had hoped to install a temporary modular housing structure for students on an underused parking lot at the outer edges of our campus to address this urgent need, the City of Kamloops had concerns and we accept their position.
Thankfully, we have secured 200 rooms in local hotels and motels for our students and we appreciate the many hotel operators who assisted us with this effort. We know that while this solution safely houses our students for now, it is a short-term measure only, and we’ll continue to look for mid- and long-term solutions to support students who come to study here.
We want these students to come to Kamloops, as should all who live here. Students — including international students — enrich our communities and boost our economy. They spend money in the city, serve in the local labour market and fill jobs that employers otherwise have a tough time filling.
Housing is a community issue that will require input and effort from many people and different levels of government. Only by working together will we be able to solve these complex problems.
vice-president of administration and finance
Thompson Rivers University