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View From TRU: Partnerships needed for student housing

Only when students have safe, clean and affordable shelter can they turn their full attention to their studies
Colukn head Brett Fairbairn TRU

Thompson Rivers University has long recognized the critical importance of housing for students.

Only when students have safe, clean and affordable shelter can they turn their full attention to their studies.

Unfortunately, too many students find it hard these days to find housing that meets the above criteria, causing them and their families much stress.

There have been plenty of stories in the media this fall about shortages of student housing in cities and university communities across Canada. For many reasons, students — especially international students — have found significant shortfalls in affordable housing, prompting some students to postpone their studies.


In Kamloops, students this semester are faring slightly better than elsewhere — and certainly better than they did here in 2021.

Last year, various factors came together to cause a dire housing shortage for incoming students.

Workers with the Trans-Mountain pipeline project were in Kamloops in greater numbers, reducing the vacancy rate. Also, evacuees from wildfires and floods across southern B.C. came to Kamloops, putting additional pressure on short-term accommodations.

Lastly, the pandemic reduced the number of households willing to open their doors to homestay situations for students.

Some of those pressures have diminished this year and, as a result, almost all students seeking housing this fall have found places to live.

TRU still has a small number of beds available on campus. This doesn’t mean the problem is solved. We are aware of some students who did not come to this university this semester because they couldn’t find housing they could afford.

TRU was created as a commuter campus. People from the local region came to campus for classes. For many years, a small amount of on-campus housing and inexpensive rental suites, often in people’s homes, covered students’ needs.

But over the years, TRU has grown, which is good for the local community. The university is more and more a destination, meaning people now come from the Lower Mainland, from across Canada and from across the world.

TRU has responded by acquiring or building more housing.

Currently, we provide 1,495 beds in four complexes, with a fifth project on the way through expansion at our East Village site.

These projects provide safe, affordable accommodation, with the latter consideration often being the biggest concern for students. We know that students are often price-sensitive when it comes to housing and, as a result, they sometimes ignore on-campus opportunities in favour of lower-cost, higher-density options in the city’s rental market.

These low-quality, high-density living situations are cheap, but cheap housing is not always good for students. These situations are sometimes not as safe as they should be. They are often far from campus.

Students, especially those inexperienced in the local market, must be protected from these housing options.

TRU will continue to provide more housing for students on or near the campus at an affordable price. Still, it is unlikely that we could ever offer accommodation for all students from elsewhere — and it would also be undesirable to do so.

One of the special things about TRU is our interconnections with surrounding communities. It is good for students to live, socialize, pay rent, have jobs, access services and meet and interact with people across Kamloops.

This is part of the university experience for those who choose off-campus living and is part of how TRU enriches Kamloops and the surrounding area.

We aim to keep building student housing steadily and sustainably, adding safe and affordable options for students while recognizing that many still want to live in the community.

This means that TRU will need to keep working with the City of Kamloops and the provincial government for years and decades to come to address housing pressures.

TRU does not only provide housing for students. Our property trust has worked with private developers to create The Reach, an on-campus community with hundreds of attractive market-cost rental and condominium units.

Some students, faculty, and staff live there, but mainly these units add quality stock to the Kamloops housing market.

TRU is doing its best to build housing for Kamloops because we understand we have a role to play.

Private developers, the city, the province and students also have parts to play in solving and managing our housing problem.

We are committed to working with all our partners to find short- and long-term solutions.

Dr. Brett Fairbairn is the president and vice-chancellor at Thompson Rivers University. He can be reached by email at The View From TRU column appears monthly in KTW and online at