The provincial government announced the addition of 96 student beds in six cottege-style buildings to be built at the College of the Rockies Cranbrook campus and open next year.
Melanie Mark, the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, unveiled the project on Thursday, which will benefit students as well as allleviate the rental vacancy rate in Cranbrook.
“The importance of this announcement is this is going to be a deal-breaker for communtiy. I know that there’s a really, really low rental vacancy rate — I think it’s 1.2 per cent,” said Mark, addressing a crowd of dignitaries and college students and staff.
“…College of the Rockies is a destination of choice and I think you’re doing amazing things in the community.”
Mark noted she toured the province’s post-secondary institutions when she was appointed in her cabinet position in 2017, and heard student concerns on a lack of housing province-wide, not just in the Lower Mainland.
The project will be consistent with CleanBC priorities and include barrier-free first-floor units, with projected monthly rents 30-40 per cent below current market rates in Cranbrook.
The housing plans included consultations with Indigenous students, which helped create the designs that incorporated a balance of privacy — individual bedrooms and bathrooms — with common gathering areas in kitchens and living rooms.
The province will contribute $11.6 million, the college will kick in $6.1 million and the Columbia Basin Trust will fund $1 million.
Construction is expected to break ground in the summer, and projected to create 53 direct and 43 indirect jobs.
“This project is an investment in our students, an investment in Cranbrook, because it will mean nearly 100 students won’t be competing for Cranbrook rentals, and an investment in the future because it will be energy efficient,” said David Walls, COTR president and CEO, in a press release.
“It’s exciting to think of the increased vibrancy and sense of community at the college from more students living on campus.”
The Cranbrook campus of the College of the Rockies includes 1,800 students, with approximately half from outside the Cranbrook area.
Lauren Spurge, a third-year student in the education program, touted the importance of getting into residence at Purcell House, the only existing student residence on campus.
“I was excited to learn that the college will be able to double the amount of resident spaces on campus as a result of this funding. If I hadn’t been successful getting into residence, my experience here would have been much different and I would have felt much more isolated.
“I’m happy to know that soon more students will experience the benefits of living on campus and I can’t wait to see it.”
Mark says the investment in student housing at the College of the Rockies follows three previous student housing announcments that will see 1,261 units built at B.C. post-secondary institutions.
Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka welcomed the news.
“It’s extremely important,” Shypitka said. “It’s something that’s been down the pipe for a long time, it’s been one of the worst-kept secrets, I think, but it was a good secret. Affordability and the livability in Cranbrook is really important, it’s key. We are one of the number one attraction destinations for advanced education in Canada.
“…This just further facilitates that need, and it also addresses our affordability issues.”