Selkirk College will begin construction next year on two new student housing buildings in Castlegar and Nelson.
L-R: Selkirk College vice president of operations Kerry Clarke, Selkirk president Angus Graeme, Columbia Basin Trust president Johnny Strilaeff, Selkirk student Jace Lamoureax, Kootenay-West MLA Katrine Conroy and Nelson-Creston MLA Brittny Anderson. Photo: Submitted

UPDATED: New Selkirk College student housing to be built in Castlegar, Nelson

112-bed building to be added in Castlegar, 36 beds in Nelson

Two new housing buildings for Selkirk College students will be built in Castlegar and Nelson.

A three-storey building at the Castlegar campus will provide 112 new student beds, while a two-storey building with 36 beds will be built at Nelson’s Silver King Campus, according to an announcement Thursday from the college and the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training.

Both buildings will also include two family units and two accessible units.

Selkirk College president Angus Graeme said the COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear how important affordable housing is to students, especially as they make their way back to campuses after a year of virtual classrooms.

“Loud and clear, students, when we asked them, said we really want to go back to some type of educational experience that allows us to make friends and get to know our teachers, our instructors, get our hands on the technology or the art or whatever,” said Graeme.

“And we want to have an experience in beautiful places that we take for granted here.”

The $24.5-million project is mostly funded by the advanced education ministry, which is contributing $23.6 million. The remaining $900,000 is being funded by Columbia Basin Trust.

Construction on the buildings will begin early 2022, and is set to be completed by summer 2023.

Selkirk currently has 100 beds at its Castlegar campus and another 109 at its Tenth Street campus in Nelson. That, Graeme says, has not been enough for a college with more than 2,800 full-time students.

“One of the biggest barriers emerging, more so than it has been in the past, has been the availability of housing for students to relocate to these communities to take their programs,” said Graeme.

“So we’ve made adjustments to remote learning and online, but we also feel strongly that we have a great in-person learning environment to offer and housing is of course a huge part of that.”

The announcement comes just two years after Selkirk completed its $23-million renovations at Nelson’s Silver King campus. At the time, Graeme said his focus was shifting to student housing, which is at a premium in Nelson where the rental market had only a 0.5 per cent vacancy rate in 2020.

Nelson-Creston MLA Brittny Anderson, a Selkirk alumna, said the new housing is going to make a positive impact on more than just students.

“The space is going to be absolutely spectacular for the students, but it’s also going to benefit the broader community because it’s going to help ease some of the rental market in Nelson and Castlegar as well,” said Anderson.

“It should benefit other people who are looking for affordable housing and rentals.”

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The proposed student building for Selkirk College's Castlegar campus. Illustration: Selkirk College

The proposed student building for Selkirk College's Silver King campus in Nelson. Illustration: Selkirk College