The SAIT residence tower in all its spacious glory.
the Gauntlet

SAIT helps with U of C student housing crunch

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A lucky few University of Calgary students will be getting twice the campus experience they signed up for.

After several days of media attention surrounding the lack of landlords posting on the Students' Union off-campus housing website, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Polytechnic had a solution. The communications office told Students' Association president David Jones to offer 73 spaces still available in SAIT's new residence tower to U of C students.

Last year there were 550 online housing listings, almost twice the current 321 listings. Two weeks ago, before a Calgary Herald article brought attention to the shortage, only 220 rooms were available.

SU president Dalmy Baez was concerned with the low numbers and lack of options for students returning this fall.

"SAIT contacted us and said, 'Hey, our registration is all finished up. We know that we're not going to have anymore SAIT students registered for our residences so we're offering it to U of C students,'" explained Baez. "What we did is put it up on our website, listing it as off-campus housing."

U of C director of residence, food and conference services Joel Lynn explained that residence services notified the 485 students still on the waiting list about the offer, but they did not get priority.

The U of C is taking steps to increase residence spaces for students.

"The [Dr. Fok Yink Tung] International House will have bed spaces for another 125 students and the university is in the middle of another feasibility study for a residence hall to follow this one," said Lynn. "We're still trying to determine the maximum number of beds for a facility that is still affordable for the university and for students."

He added the International House will be completed next fall, a year after its original deadline.

Just under 10 per cent of SAIT students live in the 1,200 residence spaces, up from 420 spots two years ago. Jones said the increase in spaces was necessary even if not enough SAIT students were interested to fill them. Alberta College of Art and Design students will also be living in the building.

"With rent prices going down and the availability of rooms and rooms for board increasing in the surrounding community, it can be more affordable not to live in residence," he said.

Jones ensured that U of C students would be paying the same rates, which range from $2,500 to $3,596 for an eight month term.

"We treat everybody as a student," he said. "Since we were offering the rooms, I don't think we'd jack up the rates just because they were from the university."

The SU is advocating for more on-campus housing, but Baez said their current objective is to find housing for stranded students this year.

"It's kind of cool that we've got other schools helping us out, but in the end, I think it certainly points out the need for more residence spaces on our campus," said Baez. "It's kind of ironic because we are working on the Inter-Institutional Study and right now, it's going to be a test to see how students are living at other institutions."

The SU and provincial government have each put $50,000 forward to fund an Inter-Institutional residence study. The request for proposal has been reviewed by lawyers and now a list of questions regarding the size, architecture and target audience of the building is being put together for further consultation. They are hoping to have the proposal ready for architecture firms to start assessments Thursday.