The growing student population in Brantford has made downtown a hotspot for student housing, but Laurier, Conestoga and the city are all ready to bring more in.
“At this time last year we had about 125 students, all domestic, and this year we have 498 students,” Conestoga associate vice-president of marketing and community relations Paul Osborne said.
Conestoga College welcomed roughly 350 international students through their introduction of new programs in Brantford.
Although the number of students looking for off-campus apartments rose dramatically this semester, neither Laurier or Conestoga heard issues of students finding apartments in the city.
“We do not have any residence at this point,” Osborne said, “but what we do have is a full-time employee here at 50 Wellington that helps students with housing”.
“We’ve worked with the land-owners association, the real estate association and mining all the possibilities that we can online,” said Osborne.
“Some students are in apartments, some are in individual homes—the people of Brantford have been great to open their homes to the students—so it’s kind of a mixed bag right now,” he said. “The city’s been fantastic working with us and people have opened their doors, but we worked hard to find spaces for all the students.”
“We’re very excited that Conestoga is here,” said Laurier Brantford dean of students Adam Lawrence.
“What we do is we work with the city to keep informing them ‘this is what our population currently is, this where growth may occur’,” Lawrence said, “and encouraging Conestoga to also connect with the city to make sure there is plans for the continued growth in the downtown”.
“Of course we want our students to have appropriate housing. If they want to be within walking distance or on a bus route, those are all huge positives for us,” he said. “We want to make sure landlords are providing a good environment for students, that students understand the bylaws and the rules associated with it and that students have a safe way of getting to their off-campus residences.”
This surge in students has attracted building developers to the downtown. Brantford was named “Canada’s top city to buy real estate in” this year by MoneySense—a Rogers business and economic publication that releases real estate rankings every year.
MoneySense wrote that diversified industry in the city – naming the Ferrero plant just off of the 403 specifically – and the revitalization of the downtown through both Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga has made Brantford the “city to beat” in Canada.
“Generally we try not to get into the student housing business,” Osborne said, “but I do know that there are some private developers who are looking at that as a possibility to come in and build some more student housing—so you know more of a highrise level which would be great, that would allow Conestoga I think to expand even more”.
One example of these highrise complexes includes the One Wellington development on the corner of West St. and Darling St..
Construction on the site is slated to begin soon, as demolition of the previous buildings on the block wrapped up this month. The complex will hold 140 ”urban style” condo units, which may increase the number of apartments available for students studying in the city as of next year.
“That’s exciting,” Lawrence said. “I think this is a positive thing.”
“More and more—you know, I’m going into my sixth year here—it seems like we’re seeing more and more small apartment buildings and smaller condo buildings go up,” he said. “We of course want students to have nice, comfortable places to live and with the growth of the downtown, there are those spaces available.”