Rush for rooms at Christchurch's student halls

Otautahi House, Ara Institute of Canterbury's new student accommodation, is already fully booked.

Otautahi House, Ara Institute of Canterbury's new student accommodation, is already fully booked.

The South Island's biggest polytechnic cannot build student accommodation fast enough to keep up with roaring demand.

It is just part of a rapidly growing demand for student accommodation in Christchurch, even at a time when the city's student numbers haven't recovered from the 2011 earthquake.

Until now Ara Institute of Canterbury, formerly CPIT, has only been able to house 72 students a year. The polytechnic has now opened a new accommodation block with 120 beds.

Ōtautahi House shared space.

Ōtautahi House shared space.

But even a 267% increase in accommodation isn't enough.

Ara opened up two blocks of its brand new student accommodation building, Ōtautahi House, on Wednesday. The building has three blocks with 40 beds in each. The final block is due to open in April.

The two blocks that opened on Wednesday were booked out before they were completed. The third block hasn't opened yet but there's already a waiting list.

Ōtautahi house dorm.

Ōtautahi house dorm.

The rent is $180-90 per week which includes power but not food, parking or internet.

Manager of Student Support Diana Law said the university was meeting pre-existing demand.

"There has always been a really high demand for accommodation at Ara. We've always had an overflow and had to direct them to other accommodation options in Christchurch."

But demand was not just driven by the need for student accommodation in the city. She says the students really like the convenience of the location on the corner of Madras and St Asaph Streets.

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"There are two reasons why it is so popular. First, it is right on campus, so it is easy to go to class. Second, it is in the middle of town."

The Ōtautahi Education Development Trust, a trust set up in the 1990s to support the polytechnic, built the block and the polytechnic is leasing the premises from the Trust.

Ara said that the students who had already booked to stay at the house mainly came from outside the city; only four are from Christchurch.

Only one student from this year's intake has moved in. The rest will move in closer to the start of the first semester.

Despite the increased demand the polytechnic has not managed to recover its 2010 student roll count of 15,695. The latest roll count, from 2015, was 12,460.

Even though tertiary student numbers haven't recovered to pre-2011 levels, the University of Canterbury is also struggling to meet increasing demand for accommodation.

 The university is hurrying to finish its Kirkwood Avenue Hall in time for the first semester. The university is converting the old retirement home in response to waiting lists for its other halls of residence.

A stay at the new Kirkwood Avenue Hall will cost between $8600 and $9000 a year, which over the forty weeks of two semesters works out to between $215 and $225 a week. While slightly more expensive than Ōtautahi House, the price includes free internet up to 100GB per month.

Even Lincoln University, which has seen its roll halved in the past eight years, finished building a new hall last year called the Quarters which has 20 beds, as well as adding on a number of separate units called the Junction Houses which add up to 30 beds.

Accommodation at Lincoln costs between $9,600 and $12,400 a year, the more expensive halls being fully catered.

Lincoln University states on its website that even the fully catered halls cost less per year than if a student were to flat privately and pay for all their costs separately.




 - Stuff


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