Construction of this residence was postponed, leaving 114 SAIT students displaced.
the Gauntlet

270 secondary suites offered to stranded students

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Students are not immune to the skyrocketing rents, expensive new developments and an increasing rate of homelessness that continues to affect a wide range of Calgarians on a daily basis.

However, there was some good news for the 114 Southern Alberta Institute of Technology students who were left without a place to live after the completion of their residence building was delayed. More than enough Calgarians came forward offering 270 rooms for students.

The SAIT administration learned in late June that completion of the 22-floor residence could not be guaranteed for the original late-August move-in date. They were able to place 203 of the 317 accepted students in other residence buildings, noted SAIT corporate communications director Dan Allen. After the remaining displaced students were contacted, a statement was released on SAIT's website asking citizens with rooms for rent to come forward.

"We had a terrific response from the community," said Allen. "We're now in the process of linking those people together."

While Allen noted SAIT is appreciative of those who came forward to help, he stressed student housing continues to be a concern. As of June, 400 SAIT students were still on the waiting list for residence.

Finding affordable housing is also a pressing concern for University of Calgary students, explained Students' Union vice-president external Mike Selnes. He attended a public forum for the City of Calgary's new land use bylaw at City Hall Tue., Jul. 24 to support secondary suites as an affordable housing option for students.

"[The new land use bylaw] only allows for secondary suites in new developments," said Selnes. "This could be 30 km away from the university, which is not ideal for students. We want to see a re-designation, allowing secondary suites in all areas of the city--especially near the university."

Selnes also noted that while many students already live in secondary suites, there are anywhere from 15-50 thousand currently illegal suites in Calgary that students could be living in. In addition to making secondary suites legal throughout the city, Selnes wanted existing secondary suites to be brought up to code so they are safe to live in.

While secondary suites have been the main issue during discussions for the proposed new land use bylaw, Alderman Dale Hodges--whose ward includes the U of C and surrounding neighborhoods--down played the issue, as it only affects low-density residential and medium-range multi-family neighborhoods. He also noted secondary suites are permitted in many neighborhoods throughout Calgary, including the areas east of Crowchild Trail and north of 16th Ave. near the university.

"The whole point is being missed," said Hodges. "Council members either don't understand or they won't. It just becomes something they want to grandstand on."

Whether or not secondary suites are allowed in all areas of the city, Selnes noted that many Calgarians simply don't want them because they are worried about increased population and traffic in their neighborhoods. To combat these concerns, Selnes stressed communities need to be educated about the plight students face when it comes to affordable housing. He also noted however, the university and the provincial government could play an important role in solving this crisis.

"The best way to solve [the student housing crisis] is to develop student-specific housing on campus," he said. "There is very little housing dedicated to students--even secondary suites--because there are not always landlords who want to rent to students."

The new land use bylaw--which includes specific requirements for proposed residential and commercial developments throughout the city--was approved by city council Mon., Jul. 23 and will become effective Jun. 2008. Discussions surrounding the regulations for secondary suites are still ongoing.