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BU's housing project taking shape

Development plans at the former Fleming School property are in full swing, with shovels expected to hit the ground this year.

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Development plans at the former Fleming School property are in full swing, with shovels expected to hit the ground this year. (GRANT HAMILTON/BRANDON SUN)

If all goes according to plan, new Brandon University housing could be ready for students to move in by September 2015.

BU president Deborah Poff said the goal is to break ground on the project this fall.

"It’s going well," she said. "We’re not going to have any official announcement for some time, but the joint committee of Manitoba Housing and the university is still meeting regularly."

The plan is to develop non-profit housing units for mature university students near Sioux Valley High School (the former Fleming School property), with the goal to provide more options in quality, affordable housing for students with families.

Poff has said she would like to see the project come to fruition before her term as president ends in July.

"I know it’s so necessary," she said. "In a city with less than one per cent available rental properties, it’s really tough for families to come to BU if they don’t already live here," she said.

"It’s not, ‘what’s the rent like?’, it’s ‘can I possibly find a decent place to live with my kids?’ so that’s why for me this is critically important."

The university’s original proposal to the province called for an $11.4-million development of 42 condos and apartments. The majority of the units would be three bedrooms suitable for families. A daycare facility and other multi-use space were also in the proposal.

"We were told very quickly that was way too high," Poff said. "So it’s a matter of us working to get in line with what Manitoba Housing expects us to do."

Poff said the process slowed down a bit once the university was told to find ways to cut the cost.

"We’re still working, I’m not worried about it," she said. "I hope it’ll be compete, at least in terms of all the sign-offs before I finish my term. That would be great for me."

The plan is now 43 units, as architects saw enough space to add a one-bedroom apartment.

There is a growing number of part-time and mature students at Brandon University, according to Roland Liwanag, a part-time and mature student commissioner with the Brandon University Students’ Union.

Liwanag saw the need for mature student housing first-hand when he arrived in Brandon from the Philippines with his wife and child.

"It took a couple of months to be able to get an apartment," he said. "It was very difficult."

Liwanag said the proposed daycare would also be a welcome addition as well.

Matthew May, student union vice-president internal, said BUSU is "highly in favour" of the housing project.

"I think it’s really important for ... mature students in particular because it’s getting to be a problem," he said.

"There’s a growing need for people that have kids to find safe housing for their families … while they go to school."

May said there are students who move into homes in "less than suitable environments" because that’s all they can afford.

"So to have something like the mature housing, I think it’s a great idea," he said.

"I know it’s not done yet, and there are probably going to be a couple obstacles along the way, but I am really hopeful and excited that this is happening."

» jaustin@brandonsun.com

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 23, 2014

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If all goes according to plan, new Brandon University housing could be ready for students to move in by September 2015.

BU president Deborah Poff said the goal is to break ground on the project this fall.

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If all goes according to plan, new Brandon University housing could be ready for students to move in by September 2015.

BU president Deborah Poff said the goal is to break ground on the project this fall.

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