University of Alberta closing residence for students with children, believes other buildings can accommodate families

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University of Alberta to close residence for students with children
One of the University of Alberta's oldest residences is closing. Michener Park has been around for more than 50 years. As Kim smith reports, it's the only residence where students can live with their kids – Jul 23, 2018

Citing the need for costly repairs along with a declining interest in university housing for students with children, the University of Alberta says one of its residences will no longer be available for students wanting to live in it in two years.

“The reason for the closure is truly the declining state of the facilities there,” Katherine Huising, the university’s associate vice-president of ancillary services, said on Monday. “It would cost us $25 million in deferred maintenance on that site.”

READ MORE: University of Alberta student residence to get major overhaul

Huising said the cost of keeping the residence maintained, combined with a declining number of people seeking out family living arrangements on campus, factored into the decision.

“We’ve seen a gradual decline… about a 12 per cent decrease of our numbers in the last four years,” she told Global News.

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“People aren’t seeing those spaces as somewhere they want to rent, and so we had to make a decision.”

She added that Michener Park, which is located in south Edmonton near 48 Avenue and Bowlen Road, is one of the university’s oldest residences.

Huising said Michener Park residents were told last month that housing at the site would no longer be possible by August 2020.

“We wanted to give them (tenants) sufficient time to make plans as they are in the midst of their studies and so we’ve given them 26 months notice on their leases coming to an end.”

Judith Pila lives at Michener Park with her two children and her husband, who is a student. She said while the move won’t impact her family as they are moving before the closing date anyway, her first reaction when she heard about the decision was that it is unfortunate for others parents who may attend the U of A in the future.

“I was actually really sad because I know that, first of all, it’s cheap and it’s affordable,” she said. “There are families [living here] and so it’s really nice.
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“You get to meet people along the way.”

Pila added that while the university says the residence needs maintenance, it was fine for her and her family.

Huising said while Michener Park is the primary residence for students with children, parents can also have other options for university housing and the institution is looking at creating new options down the road.

“We have Newton Place, which is a high-rise apartment complex with two-bedroom apartments in there, and so conversations with students are happening,” she said. “If they have a baby or just one child, we believe there’s opportunities to house them there.”

Huising added the university is also looking for different ways it could utilize spaces on its north campus. She added the university is currently consulting with students to see what they need and want in terms of residences.

The university has yet to decide what to do with the land Michener Park was built on. Huising estimates 350 students will be living at the residence in September and that the estimate jumps to 700 when factoring in students’ partners and children.

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