The new 360-bed residence located on the north side of campus is set to open in 2024
Bridget Stringer-Holden // News Editor
The current residence buildings are located on Old Dollarton Road, where Capilano University (CapU) rents the former boarding school from Darwin Properties. It is at capacity, with all 390 beds full prior to the pandemic, and waitlist numbers surpassing 200 students. The lease is also set to expire in 2022, and while CapU hopes to continue renting, it all depends on Darwin.
CapU originally submitted their proposal in the Spring of 2020, and the District of North Vancouver approved the housing project in June of this year. Construction is expected to take about two years to complete, and the 1.5 acre site will be located in the Northern part of the campus, where parking lot 2 currently resides.
The building will be six stories, the bottom being a 200-person dining hall—with a kitchen able to accommodate 500 students in case of expansions to the housing building—as well as spaces for studying and doing laundry. The other five floors will comprise 50 single dorm rooms and 155 double-occupancy rooms.
Originally, the proposal included an underground parking lot, however, it was decided that the existing parking lots would be able to sustain both the students in residence and those who commute. There will be 1,223 parking spaces on campus, meaning a net loss of 220 spots. However, only 65 per cent of the campus parking was occupied—even during peak times—according to a staff report. The new work from home and mixed mode styles of teaching and learning also apparently means that up to 40 per cent staff and students will no longer be commuting.
Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) President Maia Lomelino, who describes her part of their job as acting like a bridge between the CSU and the university, thinks that the new student housing will have a positive impact on student life. CapU has always had a commuter culture, where students come for in person classes, and then go back home. “Even if they live in residence, they’re going back there, and any social things are going to happen there too,” they said, ”so, I think that it will be a little easier to reach more students if they live on campus.”
The CSU’s role in this has been consultative, helping the university understand what students might need in terms of housing. Lomelino says the CSU is hoping to be consulted throughout the project as they have direct access to students to know what they want and need.
“So far we are quite happy with what was presented,” says Lomelino, noting that accessibility needs were taken into consideration from what they saw of the planning. Two improvements that the CSU would like to see is the addition of rooms for families to use when visiting—especially for international students—and family units where students with kids or spouses could live. Although Lomelino knows that this probably isn’t going to be included, it’s definitely something that they deemed necessary for the future.
Another crucial accessibility aspect is the affordability of student housing. The new building is set to be about ten per cent under market rate, or more if possible. The CSU is an advocate for affordable housing and finds this so important for students because there are so many other costs to account for, such as tuition fees and the inability to have a full-time job while studying. “It’s crucial that student housing has a price that is lower than the market value—otherwise it’s not going to be accessible to students at all,” says Lomelino.
There is provincial advocacy currently underway in the fight to include student housing as part of the Tenancy Act, as there’s no actual rules or rights for students in residence. The CSU is part of the Alliance of BC Students, a provincial advocacy group that joins multiple student unions in B.C.
Understanding that many students don’t or can’t live on campus, the CSU also hosts workshops to ensure everyone is informed of their tenancy rights and to help students navigate finding housing and understanding and abiding by the Residential Tenancy Act. “There isn’t much more that we can do, unfortunately, because of budget” explained Lomelino. “But what we try to do is empower students, let them know their rights, and that we are here to help them. If we can’t do anything directly, we can at least point them in the right direction and lobby for better housing.”