Trent University, Fleming College working to address student housing needs in Peterborough

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Trent University and Fleming College are making long-term plans to improve student housing in Peterborough.

Trent University and Fleming College in Peterborough say they’re in various stages of strategies to help address housing pressures in the city including building new student residences.

Trent University plans to add 700 new beds by the fall of 2027. The 10-year facilities renovation plan proposes a new 400-bed college residence on the Symons campus along with 150 residence spaces at Traill College and a 150-bed addition to an existing college on the Symons campus as well as the renovation of residence spaces at Otonabee College.

READ MORE: Trent Housing Colloquium to focus on pairing senior citizens with students in Peterborough

The university in late July issued two requests for proposals seeking expertise to create both a housing development plan and a financial strategy to fund the project, with construction anticipated to begin in late 2021. The university’s campus master plan could also include a long-term care village to help meet regional needs for elder care.

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Enrolment numbers are unavailable for the upcoming semester but in 2017, the university had 8,940 students enrolled, including 7,413 undergraduates in Peterborough, of which 700 were international students.

WATCH: Challenges to building 2,000 new affordable units in Peterborough

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Challenges to building 2,000 new affordable units in Peterborough

“Peterborough is unique in having two very successful institutions which are attracting a growing number of students,” Trent University president and vice-chancellor Leo Groarke and Fleming College president Maureen Adamson said in a joint statement. “Together Trent and Fleming contribute $1 billion in economic benefit annually to the community.

“The housing strategies of both institutions recognize the partnership with the city and our community that we greatly value.”

But the Trent Central Student Association says concerns are rising about where students find housing because they say many residences are prioritized for first-year students. The association says it’s leading to some students to “downgrade” their living arrangements.

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“We’re actually seeing a lot of unsafe housing for students and there’s actually a large number of students starting to live in smaller spaces,” TCSA president Ann-Majella McKelvie told Global News Peterborough on Thursday.

“It’s difficult when a student is trying to find housing, and there’s trying to find affordable housing too because post-secondary is expensive.”

She says the hunt for off-campus accommodations has contributed to the city’s general housing crisis.

“We’re actually seeing a kind of tension build between students and community members because landlords are actually preferring students over some community members,” she said. “Even when you look on Kijiji, a lot of the ads will say ‘students preferred'”

Fleming College says it currently has more than 480 beds at its Sutherland Residence Village in Peterborough. The college, which has a student enrollment of more than 6,800, noted that last September it partnered with Campus Living Centres, a private residence operator, to provide additional residence space at the Severn Court property near the Sutherland campus. Fleming currently manages 48 of over 360 beds at the property.

“We have had some growth in intake, however, we expect that this fall that to flatten out a bit in terms of the intake so we expect overall a similar number of students this fall as last fall,” said Drew Van Parys, the college’s executive director, marketing and recruitment.

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READ MORE: Peterborough mayor says affordable housing plan for 2,000 units in motion

Fleming says it’s committed to working with the City of Peterborough and all levels of government to play an active role in addressing housing needs of the communities it serves.

“The College has recently undertaken a process for space assessment and renewal, including its housing portfolio and housing partnerships in Peterborough, Lindsay and Haliburton,” the college stated, adding enrolment this fall should be approximately 5,200 students in Peterborough, 6,800 overall including its campuses in Lindsay, Haliburton and Cobourg.

Fleming also launched RentSmart, an initiative led by the City of Peterborough’s housing department, to teach students how to find and secure suitable housing, understand tenant rights and duties, communicate effectively with landlords, and budget for affordable housing.

The college says it has also recently added an additional homestay provider to assist with student exchanges and international student accommodations.