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Affordable housing report released

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In response to rising rents and a 0.5 per cent vacancy rate in years past, the Students' Union took action to ensure all students were guaranteed a roof over their head.

The fruits of their labour, the Inter-Institutional Residence Feasibility Study, was released Friday, April 24, finding that a residence open to all Calgary post-secondary education students would make housing more affordable. The study was spurred by the SU report, Working Together: Finding Solutions for Affordable Accommodations for Students, released in 2007, which recommended a residence shared by the University of Calgary, Mount Royal College, Bow Valley College, SAIT and ACAD.

"One of the recommendations from that report was to see if the idea of an inter-institutional residence was feasible and the goal of it was just to make sure that post-secondary students, not only from the U of C, but from all post-secondary institutions in Calgary, would [have] access to affordable housing," said SU vice-president external Kay She.

This year's SU is in the early stages of discussing the report, but haven't decided what to do with it yet, noted She.

"I think it's really important [for] the future of Calgary that we have affordable housing for students, whether it be through the IIR or something else," said She.

The Government of Alberta contributed $50,000 to the IIR project, which the SU matched through a Quality Money proposal. The study came in under budget at $83,000, said She.

An inter-institutional residence would have to be off-campus and close to transit, said Steve Pomeroy of Focus Consulting, one of the companies involved in the study. Also, students would be more willing to share accommodation if it meant that prices would be lower and if the proposed residence was located near transit. Students said that they wouldn't require much parking.

"There were several options that our university and other stakeholders could move forward with," said She. "We could either buy a property and operate it as it is, we could buy a property and then renovate it and then lease it out to students or we could design a completely new building that would be in a geographically good location for students."

The report's authors looked at cities like Montreal and Toronto, where PSE institutes have joined together to create inter-institutional residences. The SU was presented with many possible models, including buying rental property over an extended period of time, as was the case in Montreal, said Pomeroy.

Since the study was commissioned, the recession has caused housing prices to drop, making housing more available and affordable for students. Although the issue is no longer as high on the agenda as it was, the SU still needs to be proactive, said She, noting that when affordable housing becomes an issue again, they will be able to properly address it.

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