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Kelowna student housing demand entices investors

A shortage of housing in the city's university district is causing developers to take notice

A lack of student housing is proving a challenge for the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) campus in Kelowna but could prove a boon for a local developer and rental investors.

Despite UBCO providing 1,676 beds in residence and property developers adding more than 1,800 beds in the university district, there are fewer than 3,500 beds for the 9,945 students enrolled, leaving a shortage of more than 6,400 beds, according to the university.

The latest UBCO master plan calls for an addition of only 2,250 beds for students over the next 20 years.

“For students, finding housing has always seemed nearly impossible. Recent new supply in Kelowna has made things slightly easier but there is still a huge shortage,” said Luke Turri, vice-president of development, Mission Group.

Kelowna’s overall rental vacancy rate is a tight 1.9 per cent, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp

Mission Group said sales of U-Eight – its final condominium project in Kelowna’s University District – will begin in early 2019. U-Eight will add 90 homes within walking distance of UBCO, where enrolment has nearly tripled since 2005.

The new condos are attracting investors who see an opportunity in student rentals, much as in earlier sold-out Mission projects in the University District.

“At $2,000 per month, both of my suites were rented within a week of listing,” said Moe Sidhu, owner of two two- bedroom condos in Mission Group’s U-Five development.

U-Eight is the final phase for Mission Group in Kelowna’s University District. U-Seven and U-Six both sold out in a weekend. 

Studios are expected to start from the low $200,000s, one-bedroom homes from the mid $200,00s, two-bedrooms from the mid-$300,000s, and three-bedrooms from the mid-$400,000s, Turri said.

Construction on U-Eight is projected to start this spring with completion by the be-ginning of the fall 2020 semester.