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College seeks to build student housing in Smithers and Prince Rupert

A new residence opened in Terrace last fall
Coast Mountain College opened their first residence last October in Terrace. They submitted a proposal to build student housing at their Smithers and Prince Rupert campuses next. (Photo: supplied)

Coast Mountain College has requested funding from the provincial government to build student residences at its Smithers and Prince Rupert campuses.

Each school term a new group of students enter the rental markets in these communities, places where there are already prominent housing shortages.

“I know a lot of communities in British Columbia are struggling with housing right now, we’re not the only ones. But I’m really impressed with the resourcefulness of everyone here,” said Heather Bastin, executive director of external relations at the college on June 8.

Coast Mountain staff, current and former students and community members help to find solutions for students who need somewhere to live by posting and sharing on social media, asking around and sometimes offering their own homes for room and board.

Bastin said that as far as she knows every student who wants to study at the college has found housing at this time.

In January 2022, there were 204 students enrolled at the Prince Rupert campus and 132 in Smithers. These numbers are low due to COVID-19 and other factors such as a strong job market, Bastin said. She expects they will be higher at the start of next term in September.

Judy Park, property manager at Tinker Realty in Prince Rupert, said students were calling all the time in January, but she hasn’t had as many calls lately.

Of the three term start dates, January and September usually welcome more students to the college than in May, which is the summer term.

Park explained that students at Coast Mountain College often rent places together in groups. She helped a few groups of students find a place, including one house rented by six students.

She is happy to rent places to the students.

”They’re pretty trustworthy. They’re so good, they work and go to school so they don’t have time to party.”

A dedicated student residence would make it easier for students to find somewhere to live and could make the college more appealing to prospective students.

Bastin said it is difficult to know if the lack of housing is a deterrent to interested students. They don’t ask would-be applicants why they chose not to go to Coast Mountain College.

In October, the college opened a new student housing building in Terrace to replace four aging residences. It is called Wii Gyemsiga Siwilaawksat, which in Sm’algyax means “where learners are content or comfortable.”

If they do get the go-ahead to build new student housing, Bastin said they will use similar Indigenous design principles as those applied to the Terrace residence.