Danae Johnston helps 18-year-old Rachel Willson

Danae Johnston helps 18-year-old Rachel Willson

UVic students living in lounge areas due to campus overcrowding

Common areas converted to apartments with UVic housing at overcapacity

A jump in the number of first-year students at the University of Victoria and not enough space in on-campus housing has forced the university to turn some dormitory common areas into bedrooms.

Some 55 first-years are living in dorm lounges, converted into two- and three-bedroom apartments, a measure the university hopes will only be temporary.

“This helps us with our housing crunch in September,” said Joel Lynn, UVic’s executive director of student services. “We do anticipate those students in alternative housing will likely get reassigned into one of our traditional bed spaces by the end of September. We can’t say definitively everybody will be out of temporary housing by then, but we do think the majority will be.”

Beds typically become available throughout September as students either are no-shows at UVic, or decide after a few weeks that university isn’t for them – but just how many remains to be seen.

Housing students in common-area lounges isn’t a new occurrence at UVic. In 2008 and 2009 the university was faced with a similar situation, where there were too many students guaranteed housing and too few beds for them.

In the 2008-09 school year, 120 were housed in common-room lounges around campus until January 2009. Since 2007, the school has guaranteed it will provide a room to all first-year students who qualify for housing.

Lynn says the common rooms are completely converted, including changing the locks so they are not accessible by other students, and those students living in them aren’t surprised by their accommodation when they arrive on campus.

“We advise those students and their parents before they arrive that we have an alternative housing format for them,” he said. “And to thank those students for their patience, we’ve provided them with a $250 book store gift certificate, and they have other options with meal plans. The university has really tried to reach out to those students.”

Lynn says the university has about 2,300 beds in on-campus housing, including around 100 for staff and units for families.

Student services is currently looking at its inventory to determine whether there’s a need for more dorms on campus.

In 2009, the last year the university had guaranteed a bed to more first-year students than could be accommodated, an additional 1,400 second-, third-, and fourth-year students were put on a housing wait list. Lynn could not provide information on how many students are on this year’s wait list.

“We message students before they arrive to UVic that we are essentially a first-year undergrad residence population, and then we help those students look for housing in the community as they go into their upper years,” Lynn said.

Ten common rooms have been converted into temporary apartments, but Lynn said the school still has plenty of other lounges around campus that haven’t been converted, meaning residents still have options for where still congregate and socialize.

The university saw a 13-per-cent increase in new full-time students (approximately 520 students) this year. It’s the first year since 2009 that UVic is seeing a jump in enrolment numbers.

– with files from Edward Hill