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New student housing opens at University of Victoria

November 29, 2023 at 1:51 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

Hundreds of additional University of Victoria (UVic) students are living on campus as a new student housing complex has opened, relieving pressure on the local rental market.

“When young people move away from home for school, they need to be able to find safe, secure and affordable housing,” said Premier David Eby. “But spots in residence can fill up quickly, forcing some students to search for somewhere to live off campus during a housing crisis. That’s why our government is building new student housing throughout the province, including at UVic. These new homes are helping students enjoy campus life, easily access student services and focus on their studies, while also easing demand on Victoria’s rental market.”

The new residence opened in September 2023, a year ahead of schedule. It has 385 single-room dormitory-style beds, primarily for first-year students, and an Indigenous student lounge.

The new residence is part of a larger student housing project that was built in two phases. The first building, which opened in September 2022, includes 398 single-room dormitory-style student beds and a 600-seat dining hall. As part of the project, two old buildings are being torn down. In total, the project adds 621 new beds and 162 replacement beds, increasing affordable on-campus housing by 25%.

“We’re helping students in British Columbia and reducing rental housing pressures by building thousands of new student beds throughout British Columbia,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills. “This government is acting to build more homes for students. Our commitment is strengthened by our increased investment of $575 million over three years and $1.1 billion over 10 years.”

UVic has a first-year on-campus housing guarantee to help new students acclimate to campus life through living in residence. The addition of these new student residences means UVic has been able to accommodate all first-year students and more than 1,000 upper-year undergraduate and graduate students for the current academic year — the most ever.

The B.C. government provided the university with $127.7 million to support the $235.9-million project.

The Songhees Nation gave UVic permission to use lək̓ʷəŋən names for the new buildings to honour the territory on which the buildings stand. Sŋéqə ʔéʔləŋ (Sngequ House), the most recently opened student residence, features an Indigenous student lounge and Indigenous artwork. The first residence, Čeqʷəŋín ʔéʔləŋ (Cheko’nien House), is named after the territory that is now known as Oak Bay, while Sngequ House is named after a village that was located in what is now known as Cadboro Bay. Sŋéqə means “snow patches” in lək̓ʷəŋən.

Both student housing residences were constructed using natural products such as stone and wood, consistent with the Province’s CleanBC plan. Wood is incorporated into the building designs through mass timber structural elements in the first building and wood finishes in the second building.

Both buildings have been designed and constructed to achieve Passive House and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) V4 Gold certifications, two of the most rigorous global building standards for sustainability and energy efficiency. This means reduced energy, operating and maintenance costs, and lower carbon emissions, which are critical for a clean future.

This project is part of the Homes for People plan, which includes developing 12,000 student beds on campuses throughout the province to further ease pressure on local rental markets. To date, 7,766 student beds are already complete or underway, five years ahead of schedule. Budget 2023 includes $575 million for on-campus student housing over three years.

Quotes:

Murray Rankin, MLA Oak Bay-Gordon Head –

“Completing these new student housing buildings is a real milestone not just for UVic students, but for everyone in our community. Hundreds more students are benefiting from a safe, secure and convenient place to live.”

Kevin Hall, president and vice-chancellor, University of Victoria –

“The opening of Sngequ House in the fall completed the UVic’s Student Housing and Dining project, our biggest capital project to date. We know how challenging it is to find appropriate accommodations in our community and this project is helping to alleviate some of those pressures. We continue to look at ways to make higher education accessible for more students at UVic.”

Amelia Illman, residence education community leader, French Living Learning Community, Sngequ House –

“The opening of Sngequ House has generated new and unique opportunities for students living in residence, with the addition of the Indigenous student lounge, cooking facilities and increase of secure and affordable student housing. Over the past few months, vibrant communities have formed, supporting students in their transition to university. As a student living and working on campus, it is convenient to have classes just a short walk away. This has actively enhanced my university experience at UVic.”

A backgrounder follows.

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