North Island College (NIC) students will soon be able to live where they learn at the first student housing project set to be built on campus.
The housing will include two new student housing buildings, offering a total of 217 beds. The Housing Commons includes 157 individual and 60 family-specific options at the Comox Valley campus in Courtenay, according to a media release by the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training.
“We are so grateful to the province for supporting NIC’s vision to serve the educational, social and economic development needs of the North Island, one student at a time,” said Lisa Domae, NIC president.
The $65.9 million project received $57.3 million in government funding and $6.6 million from the BC Student Housing Loan Program, with $2 million provided by NIC.
The Housing Commons will offer flexible lease lengths and community-first design as a commitment to inclusivity and Indigenization, according to NIC.
Both four-storey buildings will offer a variety of options, ranging from two-bedroom family student housing to quad (individual bedrooms with shared living areas) and studio apartments for individual students. Nine of the units will be accessible for people with disabilities, and both buildings include common areas such as interfaith rooms, a community food garden, play areas and outdoor gathering spaces.
“The Comox Valley has a 1.3 per cent vacancy rate – lower than Victoria or Vancouver. So many people and families who are investing in their studies through North Island College need rental housing,” said Ronna-Rae Leonard, MLA for Courtenay-Comox. “This project will have such a positive impact on their learning experience and on housing availability for all residents.”
The Housing Commons will offer a range of services and rentals to serve all students, from first-year university studies students to trades students, who may need accommodation for only eight weeks as they complete their next apprenticeship level. It will also include an outdoor amphitheatre for all students and improved pedestrian access to Ryan Road. It will meet B.C.’s Step 4 energy goals and is one of the first mass timber construction projects on Vancouver Island, according to NIC.
Located on NIC’s Comox Valley campus, the Housing Commons will be built on the unceded and traditional territories of the K’ómoks First Nation. The concept was developed in consultation with the K’ómoks First Nation and the Indigenous Education Council at NIC. When completed, it will welcome students from across the North Island and create places where every student belongs and is supported in their learning experience.
“Family housing would have allowed me and my family to live together while I was taking my carpentry program in the Comox Valley last fall,” said Josh Hanrath, a third-year apprenticeship student. “I tried to return home to Port McNeill on weekends to be with my wife and one-year-old daughter, but with the price of gas, rents in the Comox Valley and a mortgage in Port McNeill, it was quite expensive.”
The next step will be a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a team to lead the design and construction of the Housing Commons. The RFQ is expected to be issued by the end of February, with the design/build team expected to be selected this spring, according to NIC. The first students are anticipated to move in in September 2024.