Student housing is on the horizon for the Salmon Arm campus of Okanagan College.
On Friday, March 5, B.C. Premier John Horgan announced a housing project for the college that will include 60 beds at the Salmon Arm campus, 100 beds in Vernon and 216 beds in Kelowna.
The total cost is projected at $67.5 million, with the province contributing $36.3 million via grants, another $30.2 million in loans and OC providing $1 million.
Construction is expected to start in 2022.
Shuswap-Revelstoke Regional Dean Joan Ragsdale expressed her excitement with the announcement.
“It’s going to be a game changer for our communities and our campus,” she said.
She pointed out that students have trouble now finding accommodation, particularly those from out-of-town and from rural communities in the region, as well as international students.
Regarding location, she said she knows the building will be on the Salmon Arm campus but a decision has not been made on the specific site yet. That will be the next step in the process.
The overall project for the three campuses will include 376 additional affordable student homes in five new student housing buildings, including a combination of single, double and quad suites — resulting in a 260 per cent increase in the number of student beds available. Currently, Okanagan College has no student housing in Salmon Arm or Vernon and 144 student beds housed in a single building on the college’s Kelowna campus.
Evan Smith, a student at the Salmon Arm campus and a board member representing the Okanagan College Students’ Union, said the student union is excited about the announcement.
“There are so few affordable, student-friendly housing options here. This is a much-needed and long overdue improvement… Paying as much or more in rent per month as college tuition is not acceptable….”
College president Jim Hamilton also expressed his approval.
“This is one of those rare moments when… a vision becomes a tangible project that will benefit our communities as an economic driver, help address housing issues in our region, support our goal of reducing our carbon footprint and – most importantly of all – increase access to post-secondary education.”
Premier John Horgan noted that affordable housing is key to building strong, healthy communities.
“This new student housing will help students focus on their studies, and its mass timber construction will create good jobs for local workers.”
Mass timber is a renewable resource with a lower carbon footprint compared to traditional concrete construction, the release stated. The project is expected to create more than 500 direct and indirect local jobs.
The recorded live stream of the announcement is available here.