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UBC Okanagan launching website to help tackle student housing crunch

Click to play video: 'UBCO trying to tackle student housing challenges' UBCO trying to tackle student housing challenges
WATCH: Officials say it has been especially difficult for Okanagan university students to find housing this fall. The housing crunch has prompted the university to announce a website to help connect students with rental spaces. Reporter Megan Turcato has more on what the school is doing to address the student housing challenges and why more investment will likely be needed – Oct 5, 2021

Officials say it has been especially difficult for Okanagan university students to find housing this fall.

In fact, the housing crunch has prompted the university to announce a website to help connect students with rental spaces.

The website is one of several university initiatives aimed at addressing housing student challenges.

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However, the university and students union agree even more investment in student housing is needed, beyond what’s already been done, just to keep up with demand.

UBC Okanagan says the housing challenges are part of a nationwide trend, but the students’ union believes the school is also seeing local growing pains.

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“I think it is harder this year just because the campus has grown at an exponential rate. The housing that we’ve seen offered on campus speaks to the need that we had three to four years ago, not the need that we have now, so you see that reflected in off-campus housing,” students’ union president Tashia Kootenayoo.

First-year student Caley Whitten said she found the housing search “nerve-wracking” and ended up taking the only housing option she could find.

“[There was] just nothing available. We went to a bunch of apartments and they said they didn’t have availability till like October,” Whitten said.
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Third-year student Kiara Hyslop said she and her husband also found the housing search difficult.

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“Me and my husband looked for housing for, I think, one and a half or two months. I heard some people were looking for like three months and they haven’t found housing and if they did, it wasn’t that good,” Hyslop said.

“There were a lot of people looking for housing, but there weren’t a lot of listings and then some were just really expensive.”

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To try and bridge the student housing gap, on Tuesday, the school announced it is partnering with a website called places4students.com which UBCO hopes will become a one stop shop for student housing listings.

“I think it is a resource that is only going to band-aid the overarching problem which is here at UBC Okanagan we don’t have enough space for the size of students,” Kootenayoo said.

“As a student union, we would love to work with the university to continue to push the province, to push for more money for off-campus and on-campus housing.”

The university agrees the website alone won’t solve the student housing crunch.

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“No question it is one piece, one part of the solution,” said UBC Okanagan’s director of student engagement and learning Phil Bond.

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“We’ve also focused on, this year, putting in place an off-campus housing ambassador that has worked with students to help them navigate what is a really difficult housing market right now.

“The other thing that we’ve also worked on is we’ve put together about a $300,000 bursary that supports students with off-campus housing.”

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UBC Okanagan says it has also opened 440 new residents spaces this year, but admits that’s not enough to meet all the demand.

“We still need more and there needs to be more spots in the community as well,” Bond said.

In the meantime, the university is hoping local landlords will start using the website to make it easier for students to find a place to live.

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