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Is it worth living on campus?

Cost of living on SAIT residence in Calgary’s changing rental market

East Hall resident Hayley Babonau poses for a portrait in her dorm room at SAIT in Calgary on Monday, Sept. 19, 2016. Babonau is a first-year student Travel and Tourism course at SAIT.(Photo by Dawn Gibson/ SAIT)

East Hall resident Hayley Babonau poses for a portrait in her dorm room at SAIT in Calgary on Monday, Sept. 19, 2016. Babonau is a first-year student Travel and Tourism course at SAIT.(Photo by Dawn Gibson/ SAIT)

The high cost of living on campus has been a common grievance amongst residents, says Hayley Babonau, a first-year travel and tourism student at SAIT.

Babonau, originally from Grand Prairie, Alta., chose to live on campus because she didn’t know anyone in Calgary.

“I wanted to make some friendships before school started, and it worked out because all my roommates are good friends now.”

Besides meeting likeminded people, waking up “30 seconds before class” is another perk of living on residence for Babonau, but she says it comes at a price.

“If you live a couple streets down, you can be paying a lot less.”

According to the 2016 civic census report, Calgary is encountering its highest vacancy rates in 12 years, which has been reflected in the lowered costs of or renting.

The number of vacant dwelling units in Calgary is now 20,843, an increase of 8,317 from 2015, the report shows, with the overall vacancy rate in Calgary as 4.3%, up from 2.64% in April 2015.

Rentfast.ca website owner Mark Hawkins told CBC News that the average monthly rent at $1,581, with $676 in a shared accommodation.

Babonau pays about $800 for a four-bedroom shared apartment without parking.

“I didn’t bring my vehicle because the parking is so expensive,” says Babonau. “You have to pay parking in full by semester, plus books and tuition.

“That’s just not going to happen.”

When initially inquiring about parking, Babonau says she was surprised there wasn’t a special rate for residents.

“You don’t really have a choice when you have a vehicle here,” she says.

She says that residents are, therefore, forced to buy parking.

“With it being college students, it always should be discounted.”

While Babonau has lived independently before, she says she’s concerned how the younger residents can afford it.

Students are not only paying for the convenience of location, but for other amenities not available off campus, says Chris Gerritsen, a spokesperson for SAIT.

“The rates for student residence include more than just their room – rooms are fully furnished and utilities, phone and cable are included,” says Gerritsen.

“Residents are supported 24/7 from student staff, professional on-site staff and maintenance staff.”

Gerritsen also mentions a Residence Life program that “adds to the positive experience here at SAIT” by promoting a social atmosphere, as well as on-site cardio rooms, a yoga studio, an art studio and study spaces available for free to residents.

“The bottom line is we are dedicated to the students receiving a safe, comfortable and enjoyable living experience while attending post-secondary.

Gerritsen confirmed that there is still space available for students who want to live on campus.

When asked about the lowered rental rates in Calgary and whether SAIT will reflect this, Gerritsen said that they will be conducting a review this winter before setting them for fall 2017.

He said they take into account many factors including distance to campus, amenities and after hours support.

For Babonau, she says that next year she plans to rent a house with friends and save some money.

“You’d think living on residence should be cheaper than living on your own.”

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