NIC’s first housing improves access to education for North Island students

North Island College (NIC) is launching an ambitious plan to improve access to education for students in communities across the North Island with a new $65.9 million Housing Commons.

The housing is made possible thanks to provincial funding, will include two buildings with a total of 217 beds, including 157 beds for single students and 60 beds for students with families.

“We are so grateful to the Province for supporting NIC’s vision to serve the educational, social and economic development needs of the North Island, one student at a time,” said NIC President Lisa Domae.

The Housing Commons will offer solutions to students’ housing challenges. Its flexible lease lengths and community-first design are a commitment to inclusivity and Indigenization. The complex will be a place where students from across NIC’s wide range of programs will come to live and learn.

The Housing Commons will offer a range of apartments, services and rentals to serve all students, from first-year university studies students to trades students, who may need accommodation for only eight weeks as they complete their next apprenticeship level. It will also include common areas, garden beds, an outdoor amphitheatre for all students, an outdoor play zone, and improved pedestrian access to Ryan Road. It will meet BC’s Step 4 energy goals and is one of the first mass timber construction projects on Vancouver Island.

Located on NIC’s Comox Valley campus, the Housing Commons will be built on the unceded and traditional territories of the K’ómoks First Nation. The concept was developed in consultation with the K’ómoks First Nation and the Indigenous Education Council at NIC. When completed, the Housing Commons will welcome students from across the North Island and create places where every student belongs and is supported in their learning experience.

“Family housing would have allowed me and my family to live together while I was taking my carpentry program in the Comox Valley last fall,” said Josh Hanrath, a third-year apprenticeship student. “I tried to return home to Port McNeill on weekends to be with my wife and one-year-old daughter, but with the price of gas, rents in the Comox Valley and a mortgage in Port McNeill, it was quite expensive.” 

The next step will be a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a team to lead the design and construction of the Housing Commons. The RFQ is expected to be issued by the end of February, with the design/build team expected to be selected this spring. The first students are anticipated to move in in September 2024. For more information, to ask a question, or learn how you can be involved, visit www.engage.nic.bc.ca/housing-commons.